When the government announced in 2020 that it was ramping up quality assurance for apprenticeship assessment, there was a real worry that it would put niche organisations, that offer truly sector focused assessment, out of business. But now CIfA has had formal confirmation that it has met Ofqual's rigorous standards for End-point Assessment Organisations (EPAOs).
While all apprentices must go through a comprehensive and in-depth training programme, having a rigorous assessment at the end is key to ensuring that the apprenticeship qualification is trusted and respected. And that’s where the archaeology industry’s EPAO comes in. The EPAO is part of CIfA , the leading professional body for archaeologists in the UK and overseas, which means that it’s governed by people who really understand the qualifications it assesses.
Peter Hinton, Chief Executive at CIfA, said:
CIfA has played an active role in the Historic Environment Trailblazer group, and we are delighted to have been recognised by Ofqual to deliver end-point assessment for one of the six historic environment apprenticeship standards it developed. The development of historic environment apprenticeships has been an area of significant investment for CIfA as part of our strategy to diversify entry routes to a career in archaeology. The success of the Trailblazer shows what can be achieved when employers, training providers and sector bodies like Historic England, CIfA, Icon and IHBC come together with a common goal.
All organisations that assess apprentices have recently had to gear up to meet even more stringent operating criteria. A key aspect of apprenticeships is that they include externally delivered tests at the end of the programme (known as end-point assessment). In 2020, the government sponsored Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) held a public consultation on how best to manage the external quality assurance of these tests. Previously, many organisations were involved in this external monitoring; however, it was felt that if a single organisation were carrying out this auditing process, it would lead to a simplified, more consistent, and more rigorous system which would, ultimately, lead to a better service at less cost to the public purse. The qualifications regulator, Ofqual, was the obvious choice for the role and feedback from IfATE’s consultation supported this view.
This meant that all EPAOs would need to meet the Ofqual regulatory criteria for recognition, a process that is, quite rightly, extremely thorough, and not to be taken on lightly! So, while the CIfA EPAO had been operating and assessing apprentices very successfully, if it wished to continue, it needed to go through the Ofqual recognition process.
Kate Geary, CIfA’s Head of Professional Development and Practice said:
The Ofqual recognition process is extremely rigorous; we have had to analyse every part of our assessment delivery process and take an even more detailed approach to risk management and documenting our procedures. We needed to show the regulator that it can trust us to deliver the high-quality assessment that apprentices and employers expect and deserve. Although the process was daunting at times, IfATE and Ofqual were really supportive and that made a world of difference. And to any other EPAOs considering going through the same process, I’d say that it is a big task, you do have to commit, but your organisation will be stronger for it!
The CIfA EPAO is now recognised by Ofqual to offer end-point assessment for the Level 4 Historic Environment Advice Assistant apprenticeship and will be applying to assess another three of the six apprenticeship standards developed by the Historic Environment Trailblazer group led by Historic England.
Employers have already been embracing the benefits of the recently developed qualifications for apprentices in the historic environment.
Phil Pollard, Heritage Apprenticeships Manager at Historic England said:
Apprenticeships are a brilliant way to equip a diverse range of people with specialist knowledge and skills in the heritage sector. The Chartered Institute of Archaeologists independently assesses each apprenticeship placement to ensure that candidates meet the high standards required. We feel it is incredibly valuable to have Professional Bodies such as CIfA undertaking this assessment. Historic England has already worked with the Institute to assess our first group of Historic Environment Advice Assistant apprentices and we are impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication to the role.