Those of us still able to remember our full time college courses that resulted in a final examination may well question whether the current shift in learning is actually anything new. The fact that End Point Assessment must be completed by an impartial, independent Assessor is no different from having an external examiner visit. A bold statement and one which everyone will have an opinion on.
However there are differences, traditional examination route learning for applied subjects was conducted in Realistic Learning Environments (RLEs), e.g. FE colleges; whereby apprenticeship routes are required to be conducted in Realistic Working Environments (RWEs) with the exception of 20% off the job learning; so that learners are required to be able to actually do the job that they are training for. Leaving full time college where learning is mainly simulated does not guarantee that they are sufficiently job ready, although there have of course been successes.
Due to the work based assessment element of apprenticeships- which is designed to prepare learners for Gateway and End Point Assessment (EPA)- it becomes questionable how successful the formative on-programme assessment is. Will formative assessment be pushed to the side, with employers and training providers instead relying on EPA? Internal and external quality needs to be sufficiently robust to ensure that reliable formative assessment takes place; as educators, we need to ensure that the interests of the Apprentices are our overriding aim. Provision of high quality, valid learning and formative assessment is the only way that we can prepare them for success in End Point Assessment.
Inevitably there will be skills and knowledge gaps in the Assessor workforce as it has fast expanded in its remit considerably, in response to the Apprenticeship Reform, this is due in part to requiring employer assessors and educational assessors. Both are committed to learning but, one may have an assessor qualification but lacks occupational experience, the other may be at the top of their game occupationally but lack formal assessor or teaching qualifications. So the question is what professional development is required to close the skills gaps of formative and End Point Assessors?
A Professional Development Framework that is reliable and quality driven that identifies and addresses skills gaps is essential to reduce inconsistent modes of assessment. This inconsistency has the potential to produce wildly inconsistent graduate Apprentices that will stream into the workplace and which could inevitably diminish the whole point of the Apprenticeship Reform.
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Head of The Assessors Guild