External quality assurance – a bureaucratic necessity

The purpose of external quality assurance (EQA) is: to ensure that the quality of the end-point assessment (EPA) is pursuant with the requirements of the apprenticeship standard and the assessment plan; to ensure consistency between the multiple assessment locations of the EPA organisations; and to ensure consistency between different EPA organisations that are assessing the same apprenticeship.

The Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) is committed to operating EQA via the four approaches set out in the ‘Strategic Guidance to the Institute for Apprenticeships’ document. In each of these methods, the Institute must ensure that the requirements for EQA are delivered. The four possible approaches are:
  • Employer-led: Arrangements here involve an employer-led body and usually include governance set up by the employers, often covering a group of standards, although the EQA approach needs to be approved for each individual plan;
  • Professional body: Also usually including a specific arrangement for governance;
  • The Institute for Apprenticeships’ EQA service: Available when none of the other options are suitable and if a service is needed to step in when an EQA structure for a specific standard has failed or is withdrawn; and
  • Ofqual regulation of awarding bodies acting as apprenticeship assessment organisations, where EPA will be treated as a qualification: Ofqual regulates awarding bodies whose internal quality assurance (IQA) arrangements are extensive and must comply with Ofqual’s requirements. These IQA arrangements involve a similar set of functions to EQA, which will be operated in the three bullets above.

These requirements resulted in the NDT Employer Group having a bit of a dilemma. Ideally, the NDT Employer Group would have liked the Engineering Council to carry out the EQA but, when a decision needed to be made, the Engineering Council had not completed its deliberations and a decision had not been reached. Of the four options, the employer-led approach was ruled out because most of the employers interested in apprenticeships had taken part in the development process; the professional body approach was deemed to have a vested interest and therefore could not be impartial; and Ofqual regulation was not supported by the employers because of the additional regulation that Ofqual would require. This left the remaining option, which was the Institute for Apprenticeships’ EQA service.

Recently, the Engineering Council declared on its website that it is now in a position to carry out EQA for engineering apprenticeships: “The Engineering Council actively supports the delivery of high-quality apprenticeships that meet the needs of employers and apprentices, support individuals on their journey towards professional registration and assure the public about the competence of those who are successful. Employers are able to nominate the Engineering Council as the provider of quality assurance (known as external quality assurance or EQA) for engineering-related Trailblazer apprenticeships. The IfA website sets out the quality assurance requirements for apprenticeships and how this will ensure quality, consistency and credibility.”

BINDT, on behalf of the Employer Group, has been given permission by the IfA to approach the Engineering Council with regards to carrying out EQA on all three of its NDT apprenticeships. This makes sense, as BINDT is annually audited by the Engineering Council for professional registration activities. I will keep you informed of progress as time moves on.

Comments by members

This forum post has no comments, be the first to leave a comment.

Submit your comment

You need to log in to submit a Comment. Please click here to log in or register.

<< Back