Following the updated guidance on the COVID-19 situation delivered on 23rd March 2020, SIAS as with other End Point Assessment Organisations have been issued with contingency/delivery arrangements for the COVID-19 response. The ESFA and IfATE have introduced some flexibilities in the event of a disruption to assessment, or as well as, disruption to training and employment.

We continue to work with and seek guidance from the External Quality Assurance Providers in all apprenticeship standards to either confirm or propose any modifications to the delivery of End Point Assessment, ensuring that at all times the apprentices receive a fair and valid End Point Assessment. We wish to ensure that at all times the consistency and quality of End Point Assessment delivery is maintained, as stipulated in the respective Assessment Plans.

We are mindful that this is a fast-changing environment and remain vigilant and ready to act should guidance or requirements change.  Our team, in line with UK Government, requirements are working remotely but continue to provide service to our customers throughout this challenging time via our normal channels of communication.


For all our customers, please take your time to read the IfATE’s official statement below regarding apprenticeships during COVID-19. (Information can also be found here)

“The Covid-19 virus presents a unique challenge to the fair and timely delivery of quality apprenticeships. 

Our priority at this time is the health and wellbeing of apprentices, employers and everyone involved in the process.

Every effort should continue to be made to ensure that apprentices can continue with their apprenticeship, and be assessed in accordance with current EPA (End-Point Assessment) plan and EQA (External Quality Assurance) requirements if possible.  Where this is not possible, providers should first consider whether it is appropriate to extend the apprenticeship in order to reschedule the EPA.

The purpose of this direction is to specify measures that permit professional discretion so that individuals are protected and disruption is minimised, whilst safeguarding the quality and integrity of apprenticeships in circumstances where there is not a good reason for extending an apprenticeship.

These arrangements specifically relate to the response to the Covid-19 virus and are temporary.  The Institute will continue to monitor and respond to the situation in conjunction with stakeholders including sector bodies.  Further guidance will be provided as necessary.

Training providers and EPAOs (End Point Assessment Organisations) should make every attempt to communicate as much as possible through this period to ensure the apprentice is well informed.

EPAOs should continue to engage with their External Quality Assurance Provider (EQAP) throughout the application of this direction.  EPAOs are to keep a specific log of any Covid 19 related actions and this should be available for review by EQAPs.

Queries

The Department for Education have established a Coronavirus Helpline – 0800 046 8687

Adjustments to funding arrangements will be the subject of direction from the ESFA – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response

Queries on the provisions below should be sent directly to the Institute: enquiries.ifa@education.gov.uk

Training and Assessment

  • Apprentices who are deemed ready for assessment and cannot be assessed due to assessor illness or Covid-19 related measures are allowed to have a pause in learning as per ESFA rules.
  • Apprentices who experience gaps in training in the workplace or off-the-job due to Covid-19 related prevention measures or illness can classify this period as a break in learning.

Delivery of EPA

  • In the first instance, providers should seek to reschedule any EPA or continue to follow the specified assessment plan, especially where remote assessment is allowable.
  • Gateway sign-off can be conducted remotely, with the agreement of the apprentice, employer and provider.
  • Where an apprentice is post Gateway and where the EPA Plan specifies a time limit by which EPA must be completed post Gateway, this may be extended by up to 12 weeks.  Where this is the case EPAOs need to log each instance and share with their EQAPs on a timely basis.
  • Should an apprentice move employers during the extended period, the EPA should still take place wherever possible.
  • If the application of an extension were to cause hardship to the apprentice, EPAOs may choose to apply the following professional discretions in order to conduct assessments:
    • The requirement for assessment methods to be completed in a set order can be relaxed to allow flexibility in delivery, where this is deemed reasonable and feasible.
    • Where an assessment method requires face to face engagement, this can be conducted remotely, subject to the following conditions:
      • Arrangements are cleared in advance by the EQAP.
      • The apprentice’s identity is verified; appropriate technology and systems are in place.
      • Remote tests are supervised by an appropriately trained invigilator, or qualified assessor, who has the necessary qualifications, training or experience; and who has not been involved in the training, preparation or line management of the apprentice. This supervision can happen remotely.
      • The impact that remote assessment may have on apprentices is to be taken into consideration to ensure a fair and reliable assessment of occupational competence.
      • Where remote alternatives are not appropriate, a pause in assessment might be the only action.
    • Some assessment methods require a manager or team leader to be present. This should continue to be the default practice, and should be delivered remotely where it is reasonable and feasible to do so; the identity of the apprentice has been verified; and that the physical absence of a manager or team leader has been agreed by the apprentice.
    • Tests must only be carried out within a supervised and controlled environment and EPAOs must ensure all testing meets security requirements. Details of invigilators are to be recorded and available for confirmation by EQAPs.
    • Where suitable facilities exist and are available, simulated environments may be used where this is reasonable and feasible, with the prior approval of the EQAP.
    • In addition to the discretions above, where it is believed that a specified assessment method for a standard could be further modified without compromising safety and still meet the original intent as set out in the Assessment Plan, this should be reviewed in conjunction with your EQAP and referred to the Institute for approval. The authority to significantly modify (or substitute) an assessment method remains with the Institute.  The Institute will keep the need to offer substitute assessment methods under review at this stage.
  • The above professional discretions may also be applied to Integrated degree apprenticeships. Breaks or pauses in learning should be applied in conjunction with the HEI’s procedures so that the EPA still takes place and its outcome is incorporated into the awarding of the degree.

EQA

  • Where EPA continues, EQA oversight should take place on a remote basis.

Delivery of Pre-Gateway Qualifications

  • Pre-gateway qualifications should be delivered in line with guidance issued by the Ofqual.”