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Apprenticeship Standards and EPA FAQs

Employers have been working together to design new standards and assessment plans for apprenticeships. These groups have been referred to as ‘Trailblazers’, so you may continue to see this term in some references.   

The standard describes the skills, knowledge and behaviours an individual needs and must demonstrate in order effectively and consistently work to national standards and to be fully competent in an occupation.  

The learning for the apprentice must last at least 12 continuous months, specific details are set out in the assessment plan per standard. The learning must demonstrate 20% off-the-job training which must take place during the apprentice’s working hours and they will also be required to demonstrate maths and English Skills. (See more details below). 

The assessment plan sets out the methods by which the apprentice will be assessed at the end of their apprenticeship in an End Point Assessment (EPA), to demonstrate that they have met the standard.  The apprenticeship will only be achieved on successful completion of an EPA.

Although each standard has an employer designed synoptic EPA, the nature and approach to assessment varies across standards. The detail of the assessment is set out explicitly in each assessment plan.

The level of the standard is determined by the Employer group at the time that the standard was put together and is designed to meet the requirements needed for a specific job role.

The Government plan for them to replace apprenticeship frameworks. These were broader apprenticeships, often across two levels and containing multiple pathways to enable the apprentice to specialise. They always contained at least one, and often two, occupational-specific qualifications as well as the requirement to complete maths, English and often IT functional skills (as well as some additional requirements).

The majority of the apprenticeship frameworks still exist; either running alongside a new apprenticeship standard or because the new standard does not yet exist in that area.

Some apprenticeship frameworks with relatively low take-up have been withdrawn and others have been proposed (but not all confirmed) for withdrawal. A list detailing their withdrawal is currently available here. Please note that this is a central Government list; on occasions framework owners have decided to withdraw frameworks on a date earlier than proposed by the Government.

Apprenticeship standards are developed by groups of Employers in relation to a particular occupation.

They are required to include English and maths components, however, the rest of the structure is decided by the group including the level of the standard. They are required to describe the skills, knowledge and behaviours that must be demonstrated for an apprentice to be fully competent in the occupation. There is no requirement to include a vocational qualification in the standard, although the Employer group could decide to include one, should they feel this is relevant. There is no requirement to undertake Employment Rights and Responsibilities (ERR) as a distinct piece of learning and assessment; which was required in many frameworks. 

Standards comprise an on-programme delivery part which will be at least a 12 month period and apprentices are then assessed by an End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) when it has been determined that the apprentice is ready to pass through the ‘gateway’ to be assessed.  The on-programme delivery must be delivered by a training provider on the Register of Apprentice Training Providers (RoATP). EPAs have to be delivered by an organisation which is on the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO), according the timescale and requirements described in the assessment plan which accompanies the standard.  

The apprentice will be graded, according to the requirements in the assessment plan. Certificates will be issued by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) on behalf of the Institute for apprenticeships (IfA).  

Some apprenticeship standards are already live. Many others are in development. There is currently no deadline date by which developments must be approved and in theory this could occur at any stage in the future.

The main stages for each development are:

  1. A proposal is submitted by an Employer group (at least 10 employer members) representing an occupation for which an apprenticeship standard is required.  If the standard meets specific criteria it should be approved
  2. The standard (knowledge, skills and behaviour requirements) is developed by the Employer group and approved 
  3. The assessment plan is developed and approved
  4. Funding and a funding cap are assigned
  5. End-Point Assessment Organisation(s) (EPAO) are approved to conduct the end point assessment
  6. Delivery commences.

The current deadline is 2020. This has already been pushed back from the initial date and is subject to change.

However, some SASE apprenticeship frameworks may be withdrawn prior to this date because:

  • The DfE is periodically withdrawing frameworks with no or low take up
  • The DfE may decide to withdraw some SASE frameworks as new apprenticeship standard replacements or equivalences are introduced
  • The DfE may decide to withdraw some frameworks as part of a structured periodical withdrawal
  • The framework owner decides to withdraw or replace the framework

A list of those to be withdrawn and those under consultation for withdrawal can be found here.

In theory there is no limit to the number of sectors or apprenticeship standards, although overlaps with existing standards are discouraged. 

So far a wide range of apprenticeship standards have been proposed or implemented, from customer service, IT, hospitality to puppetry and apprenticeships for Vicars.  Even if an apprenticeship standard is not currently being developed for a sector, it could be developed in the future.

The list of apprenticeship standards either in development or already approved is continually growing. Click here for standards approved (not all of them have approved assessment plans) and click here for standards approved to be developed.

The on-programme part of the apprenticeship standard is delivered by an employer, training provider or college which is approved on the Register of apprenticeship Training Providers (RoTAP).

Employers do not have to deliver their own training provision but may choose to do so (in most instances this is likely to be where they already deliver some or all of their apprenticeship provision).  Supporting providers can only be assigned sub-contracted work up to a maximum of £500,000 a year by a main provider or employer provider.

An organisation that wishes to work with a company not on the RoATP must encourage it to apply and be accepted. Likewise, an employer not on RoATP wishing to deliver its own apprenticeship training must gain entry to the RoATP.  There are only periodical application windows.

A minimum of 20% of the training must be off-the-job training (not assessment), relevant to the apprenticeship standard, which must take place during their paid contracted employment hours outside of the normal work environment (it can take place at their place of work, but cannot be part of their normal working duties).  This cannot only include distance learning and the 20% cannot be made up of maths and English or the End Point Assessment. (See below for information from the current rules and guidance available).

The End Point Assessment part can only be delivered by an organisation which is approved on the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO).

This is the document that is produced to accompany the apprenticeship standard which describes the detail of how the apprentice must be assessed against the standard at the end of their apprenticeship programme. 

There is generally more detail than provided in the standard and will describe the component parts of the EPA, the weighting of each component part, the requirements and qualifications to be held by the assessors, how the internal and external quality assurance will work, how the grading should be applied and any other relevant information required for each apprenticeship standard.   

The gateway is the point at which the employer and the training provider determine that the apprentice is ready to undertake an EPA. 

The End Point Assessment (EPA) is the final test of an apprenticeship programme designed to measure the competence of the apprentice against the apprenticeship standard. 

The employer and training provider will have completed the training for the apprentice according to the requirements in the standard and there will have been regular reviews along the way. 

Provided that the minimum timescale for the apprenticeship has been exceeded, the apprentice has completed the skills, knowledge and behaviour requirements in the standard, plus any qualifications, English, maths and other specific requirements and the employer (line manager) and training provider agree that the apprentice is ready, they can move through the ‘gateway’ and will then be able to request an EPA for the apprentice. 

The EPA is separate to any qualifications or other assessment that the apprentice may undertake during on programme training. The apprentice must pass the EPA to be able to achieve the apprenticeship.  For the vast majority of EPAs the apprentice will receive a grade depending on how well they do on their assessments (e.g. Pass/Merit/Distinction or Pass/Distinction).

EPAs will be assessed by an independent assessor from an organisation approved on the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO). The assessor will not have been involved in the delivery of the on programme training or qualification delivery for the apprentice and will have no other conflict of interest (they cannot, for example, be the apprentice’s Line Manager).

The assessor will determine whether the apprentice achieves the apprenticeship and the respective grade. 

The apprentice can fail their EPA in which case they will need to retake the EPA in order to achieve their apprenticeship.  Each EPA differs, but if the apprentice fails they may not be able to achieve a grade greater than a pass in their retake and may be limited to the number of retakes they can undertake.

The apprentice will have successfully completed their on-programme training, and their EPA according to the requirements of the apprenticeship standard and assessment plan. 

When the apprentice has successfully completed their EPA, the End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) will apply to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) for the apprenticeship certificate according to the grade achieved, on behalf of the apprentice. The ESFA will send the certificate to the address of the apprentice’s employer, according to their service level agreement, for the employer to give to the apprentice.   

Anyone who is 16 or over and in a new or existing job role where they can demonstrate they need substantially new skills and knowledge. Apprenticeship funding cannot be used to pay for skills already attained.  Apprentices can already hold an apprenticeship or qualification at the same or a higher level, as long the apprenticeship is materially different from any they have previously obtained.

Part time employees, those on zero-hour contracts and employees who have a break in learning (for whatever reason) are eligible, but there are strict rules on ensuring the duration of the apprenticeship is increased in proportion with the hours worked.

For the new apprenticeship standards primarily referred to in this document, 50% or over of the apprentices working time must be spent in England. There are differing systems in place for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The apprentice needs to have a right to work in England and meet certain specified citizenship requirements.

Qualifications do not have to be part of the new apprenticeship standards. 

Some employer development groups have decided to prescribe the achievement of qualifications as a way to demonstrate that the apprentice has met the standard and / or because qualifications are a licence to practise. 

Other groups have decided that prescribing qualifications is not the best model for their apprenticeship standard or have not been able to make an argument that is acceptable to Government for the inclusion of qualifications. 

The Government has set strict requirements as to when qualifications can be a mandatory part of an apprenticeship standard; the qualification must meet one or more of the below criteria:

  • a mandatory requirement set by the Regulator for that occupational area
  • required for professional registration
  • without it, the apprentice would be at a significant disadvantage when applying for jobs.

However, even when a qualification is not prescribed as a mandatory requirement, some have been recommended and appropriate qualifications can still be used to demonstrate that they have met the standard before undertaking the EPA.  Many employers have stated that this remains their preferred option for meeting the standard.

Current qualifications are still valid and many are fundable. Qualifications which are part of the apprenticeship frameworks will continue to be valid and fundable for use within apprenticeships until the framework is withdrawn. 

Many employers are still requesting qualifications for their staff and they will continue to be relevant with some apprenticeship standards where there is a recommended rather than mandatory requirement, as standalone options, as part of local enterprise plans and as licences to practise.    

Some apprenticeships standards are already live, but in their infancy and have not yet been fully tested in a live environment.

This is Government policy and there is no immediate sign of a U-turn or rethink. However, a number of stakeholders continue to register concerns about the strategy and questions about their viability remain.

The apprenticeship standards are an England development currently and apprentices must spend at least 50% of their working hours in England. However, The Levy applies to all businesses in the UK above a specified size. BIIAB provides qualifications which are in apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Click here to find which apprenticeships we offer in these nations.

An End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) is an organisation which has applied and been approved by Government to conduct the independent End Point Assessment (EPA) of apprentices completing the new apprenticeship standards.

EPAOs, once approved, are added to the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO) to enable employers to select the organisation they want to conduct the EPAs for their apprentices. 

Upon completion of the assessment, the EPAO will grade the apprentice and apply for the final apprenticeship certification.

As new apprenticeship standards are approved and ready to deliver, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will allow potential EPAOs to begin the approval process for these standards, which includes proving that the EPAO has the necessary expertise and capacity to develop the EPA, and complete the assessments with the learners.

To view the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations, please click here. This list will be updated as EPAOs are approved to conduct end-point assessments for the standards currently in development.

The sole purpose of the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO) is to provide employers with a list of organisations which have been approved by the ESFA as having the capability of delivering independent End Point Assessment (EPA) against a particular apprenticeship standard.

An organisation must complete an application process with the ESFA through their Bravo contracting system to apply to become a member of the Register. This requires compiling evidence of the organisation’s capacity and capability to develop, deliver and quality assure the EPA for each of the standards and assessment plans for which approval is sought. The process is through a rolling monthly application window and organisations are notified whether they have been successful approximately 6 weeks following the closure of each month’s window. If not successful, an organisation can re-apply during a subsequent monthly application window.

The Register will enable the delivery of EPAs and help employers select who should deliver their EPA. Employers can only select organisations to conduct EPA from the Register. Being on the Register does not guarantee that an organisation will be selected to deliver EPA. Once the employer selects their End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) they will confirm this with their training provider.

As well as being separate to the delivery of the apprenticeship, the EPA must be independent. There needs to be independence in the EPA and an independent third party must carry out the end assessment to ensure that those bodies that make judgements about whether or not an apprentice has passed have nothing to gain from the outcome.

Assessments must be delivered in such a way that no organisation or individual who has been involved in the management or training of the apprentice can conduct an assessment method without the independent assessor being present or make the sole decision on competence and passing the EPA.

All the standards and assessment plans approved for delivery are published here.

Employers will use the register to select an organisation to deliver the EPA for them. Once the employer has selected their EPA organisation, their lead training provider will contract with the assessor, on behalf of the employer. 

In June 2017, DfE released new guidance on the apprenticeship 20% off-the-job training rule.  The rule has proved controversial, with AELP, amongst others, calling for a review of the rules arguing for a more flexible approach specifically tailored towards the needs for each sector and that an arbitrary percentage is not by itself an indicator or measure of quality.  However others feel that a stated and audited minimum is necessary to ensure quality apprenticeships which include training and learning (not just assessment) and point to similar or greater commitments in other countries whose apprenticeship systems are often held up as gold standard.

Regardless of the plusses and minuses of the rule; given the ESFA and IFA have stated that compliance to it will be one of the main areas they will be focus upon, to avoid unintentionally falling foul of the rules it is imperative that providers read the guidance alongside the funding rules and understand, meet and evidence the requirements with their apprentices.  It is also critical that employers clearly understand, from the start that they will need to release their apprentices for off-the-job-training for at least 20% of their paid working hours. It is also important to understand that these rules apply to both apprenticeship standards and frameworks.  

The Guidance provides a number of illustrative examples / theoretical case studies which both employers and providers may find useful.  Because BIIAB have received a number of queries on the rules, we felt it may be useful to highlight some of the key points.

The definition: “Off-the-job training is defined as learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship. This can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties.”

Relevance: “Off-the-job training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework or standard” – e.g. training which may be relevant to the business but not the apprenticeship cannot count towards the target.

What training and learning can count towards the requirement?   

Examples include:

  • “The teaching of theory (for example: lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning or manufacturer training),
  • Practical training: shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attendance at competitions,
  • Learning support and time spent writing assessments/assignments.”

What cannot count towards the requirement?

Examples include:

  • “English and maths,
  • Progress reviews or on-programme assessment needed for an apprenticeship framework or standard,
  • Training which takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours (if training must by exception, take place in an evening, or outside of contracted hours, (they) expect this to be recognised (for example, through time off in lieu)
  • Inductions (unless they) include an educational element that provides some basics of the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are core to the apprenticeship” – in which case this part of the induction could be included,
  • 100% distance learning; where used it must be part of a blended approach, (there are no other stipulations as to the minimum or maximum other than solely distance learning can be used; however it is possible, for example, that the use of 99% of distance learning to meet this criteria could be subject to greater scrutiny)
  • Assessment.

When must it take place?  

Examples include:

  • “Over the course of an apprenticeship, (as opposed (for example) to over an academic year)
  • During employed, paid time,
  • It is up to the employer and provider to decide at what point during the apprenticeship the training is best delivered (for example, a proportion of every day, one day a week throughout, one week out of every five, a proportion at the beginning, middle or end). This will depend on what is best for the organisation and the apprentice and on the technical or theoretical requirements of the apprenticeship standard.”

Where must it take place?

Examples include:

  • “Off-the-job training can take place at an employer’s workplace or off-site (e.g. in a classroom or from home via distance learning, as part of a blended approach).”
  • It can take place at the apprentice’s workstation, but must be learning or training, rather than be a work requirement, such as a quarterly health and safety assessment

How must it be recorded?

Examples include:

  • “The funding recipient (usually the main provider) is the custodian of the relevant evidence files,
  • The ESFA do not prescribe the type of evidence that should be retained as they prefer training providers and employers to use naturally occurring evidence where this is available.”

For further information please refer to the 20% off-the-job training guidance alongside the funding rules

  • Functional Skills remain a mandatory part of new apprenticeships and must be completed before the apprentice can pass through the Gateway (the normal proxies e.g. specific GCSEs etc. can be applied as an alternative). The requirements may differ for some individual standards but in general apprentices undertaking apprenticeships at: level 2 must achieve maths and English at level 1 and attempt (but not necessarily pass) them at level 2
  • Level 3 and above must achieve maths and English at level 2.

There may be some additional specific requirements in standalone standards.

As an Awarding Organisation, BIIAB cannot design the new apprenticeship standards or assessment plans; this is solely the role of employers and their representative groups. 

BIIAB is participating in assessment development groups relevant to our provision and customers.

BIIAB are an approved End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) for standards relevant to us as an organisation and our customers where there is evidence of need and demand. We have been successful with applications to date, and appear on the Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO). We plan to offer apprenticeship standards in any area where we currently offer an apprenticeship framework or Qualification. Click here to view our current standards and EPA offer. 

BIIAB are an approved End-Point Assessment Organisation and are on the RoEPAO for a number of standards and will therefore support our training providers with information for their employer clients to understand the transition to the new standards and EPAs.  

We are also supporting our customers with the on-programme apprenticeship delivery through the development of Quality Assured Delivery and Assessment Preparation (QADAP) Packs which we have already developed for a number of our sectors. These are aligned to the apprenticeship standards and are designed to support the 'on-programme training delivery', 'quality assurance' and ‘assessment preparation’ of apprenticeship standards and, where appropriate, Functional Skills. We also provide a 'full fat' Quality Assurance process, through the BIIAB EQA, who will continue to provide the advice, guidance and support, as they have always done.

Each QADAP Pack guides and enables: 

  • Diagnostics 
  • Action planning
  • Assessment
  • Feedback
  • Review and reflection
  • Preparation for the End Point Assessment (EPA)
  • Certificates of progress 
  • Mapping to qualifications or units as an optional extra to a standard.   

The content is divided into an appropriate number of modules.  Tasks are set throughout according to the assessment methods used in the respective EPA. This will help to prepare apprentices for EPA during their training and as they approach the 'Gateway'.  As progress is made through each module, providers will be able to claim a 'certificate of progress' against the standard, and this can be evidence, for the employer, (and others including ESFA and Ofsted) that the apprentice is ready (or not) to pass through the 'Gateway'. 

Within the QADAP packs, we also:

  • where there is no mandatory qualification - identify the nearest qualification and map the modules to the qualification and/ or units, adding ‘top up’ sections to each module, for the apprentice to complete if they want to achieve the qualification as well as achieving the apprenticeship.  To date we have found that this normally requires between 10% - 20%, additional assessment, again ensuring seamless, effective and efficient delivery.
  • where there is a mandatory qualification within the standards – provide progress tracking and diagnostics to ensure the apprentice is ready for the EPA.

QADAP Packs are available in the secure part of the BIIAB website to all BIIAB Approved Centres. Click here to view, please note - you must be signed into Centrezone.

In summary, each BIIAB QADAP Pack provides a quality assured delivery and assessment preparation process for employers and training providers to deliver training of standards from day one, is Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) ready and easy to use. It will enable a tailored, consistent and standardised approach to delivery, tracking individual apprentice progress towards the 'Gateway' and will prepare apprentices for the EPA. As each module is completed there is an auditable evidence trail in one place for audit and inspections, which combined with the QA, will support the risk management strategy.  

Yes, BIIAB have already been successfully approved for a number of apprenticeship standards. To date we are approved to deliver EPAs for the following standards:

Business and administration standards:

  • Business Administrator, Level 3
  • Team Leader / Supervisor, Level 3
  • Operations/Departmental Manager, Level 5

Catering and hospitality standards:

  • Commis Chef, Level 2
  • Hospitality Team Member, Level 2
  • Hospitality Supervisor, Level 3
  • Hospitality Manager, Level 4
  • Chef de Partie, Level 3
  • Senior Chef Production Cooking, Level 3

IT and Digital standards:

  • Digital Marketer, Level 3
  • Infrastructure Technician, Level 3
  • Network Engineer, Level 4

Sales, marketing and procurement standards:

  • Customer Service Practitioner, Level 2
  • Event Assistant, Level 3 
  • Retailer, Level 2
  • Retail Team Leader, Level 3
  • Retail Manager, Level 4

Social Care standards:

  • Adult Care Worker, Level 2
  • Lead Adult Care Worker, Level 3

Transport and Logistics standards:

  • Supply Chain Warehouse Operative, Level 2

We are in the process of submitting further applications with the intention of covering all of the standards which relate to the frameworks within which we currently operate. Click here to view our current standards and EPA offer.

The price differs depending on the subject area, level and the cost of delivering each EPA. To see the BIIAB Price List for all content related to Apprenticeship Standards please visit the secure part of the BIIAB website or contact BIIAB to be talk through and discuss our pricing structure.

BIIAB are currently recruiting End Point Assessors to our Professional Register against the person specifications and requirements for each standard and assessment plan.  We are already canvassing our network to identify and encourage experienced, occupationally competent and knowledgeable people to join our Professional Register. 

If you have the expertise, skills, knowledge and experience to join our team of End Point Assessors and Quality Assurers, you can apply to join our Professional Register. 

Download the person specification, application and competency forms here. Please fill out the forms in full and submit your completed forms online here.

Yes, providing they meet the requirements of the respective apprenticeship standard and assessment plan, our existing contacts may become End Point Assessors. In many cases they may play a quality assuring role as a Senior End Point Assessor (SEPA) monitoring, quality assuring and standardising the assessor’s assessments.

BIIAB will continue to provide qualifications, Functional Skills and apprenticeship frameworks to our customers for as long as the qualifications and frameworks are live and valid.

Many of our current customers have been successful in their applications to the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) and so they will continue to deliver apprenticeship training in future in relation to the new apprenticeship standards and alongside any qualification delivery as long as it is valid.

We are working with many of our customers to transition to the new apprenticeship standards.  

Depending on the subject area and level SASE apprenticeship frameworks are currently either the sole apprenticeship offer or are run alongside the new apprenticeship standards.

From 1 May 2017, the apprenticeship frameworks are funded in the same way as apprenticeship standards (see below).

The level of funding, however, can differ between new apprenticeship standards and existing frameworks at the same level, despite appearing to cover largely the same content. SASE apprenticeship framework bands from May 2017 are available here.

There are, in fact, two models. This will depend on whether the employer is a Levy payer (see below) or not.

If money in the employers levy pot or funding allocated remains available to finance the retake it could be used. If not, the Employer would need to finance any retakes.

The Government has a 3 million apprentice target for 2020 and has introduced a levy for additional apprenticeship funding in the expectation that employers paying the levy will be encouraged to take up apprenticeships. 

Who will pay the levy?

Every UK Employer with a wage bill greater than £3 million per year will pay the levy. 

How much will they pay?

0.5% of their wage bill, via PAYE process.  However, they will not have to contribute the initial £15,000.

How much will they get back?

At least the same amount if they employ enough apprentices.  If there is spare money in the levy pot they may be able to get funding in excess of their levy payments.

More information on The Levy

BIIAB has provided a briefing document on the Levy model.

To find out more on the Levy, please click here.

AAO – Apprentice Assessment Organisation

AELP – Association of Employment and Learning Providers

IFA – Institute for Apprenticeships

EPA – End Point Assessment (EPA)

ESFA – Education and Skills Funding Agency

QCF – Qualifications and Credit framework

RQF – Regulated Qualifications framework

RoAAO – Register of apprentice Assessment Organisations

RoATP – Register of apprenticeship Training Providers

TQT – Total Qualification Time

QADAP – Quality Assured Delivery and Assessment Preparation Pack 

Click here to download the FAQs for apprenticeships standards and End Point in full.