Apprenticeships and EPA

This page covers:

  • What is an apprenticeship?

  • Learning and Skills Teacher Apprenticeship

  • Text books

  • Support for end-point assessors

  • Traineeships

  • Trailblazer groups

  • Assessor-coach role  

  • Apprenticeship standards 

  • Assessment plans

  • End-point assessment (EPA)

  • Examples of EPA activities

  • Useful weblinks

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job with training. It enables someone to develop and demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) that they need to perform effectively in a particular occupation. This is defined in the apprenticeship standard (scroll down the page for more information about standards). An apprenticeship is not a qualification, but the apprentice will receive a certificate upon successful completion. The programme might include a relevant qualification if this is part of the standard; for example, maths and/or English. If so, the qualification must be achieved before the end of the apprenticeship programme.

Apprenticeships (in England) aim to:

  • give employers control in designing the apprenticeship programmes for a particular occupation

  • increase the flexibility of delivery

  • simplify the funding system

  • increase the effectiveness of training.

Apprentices are aged 16 or over and will have a contract of employment. They will be employees of the company which takes them on. They must be paid at least the appropriate rate or the minimum wage for the duration of their apprenticeship, although many employers pay more.

Apprenticeship programmes must last a minimum of 12 months, with 20% of the time as structured off-the-job training (for example one day per week at a college or a training centre - known as on-programme training). 

On-programme training is learning which is undertaken outside the normal day-to-day working environment and contributes towards the achievement of the apprenticeship. 

Although this can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work, it must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties. 

The on-programme training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship standard.

The apprentice must be knowledgeable and competent in their occupation before end-point assessment (EPA) takes place. Scroll down for details of EPA.

Learning and Skills Teacher Apprenticeship

There are currently two routes to gain recognition as a professional teacher in the Further Education and Skills sector (at level 5 or above in England). One is to obtain the qualification known as The Diploma in Teaching (recent replacement for DET, also known as CertEd/PGCE), and the other is through a Learning and Skills Teacher apprenticeship programme which is the equivalent of a level 5 qualification. Both are based on the Occupational Standards.

The standards include duties which are mapped to knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs). Each aspect is given a reference and it’s these which an apprentice teacher will use to cross-reference their evidence in their professional practice portfolio. 

If you choose to take the apprenticeship route, you will partake in paid on-the-job work experience, as well as attending off-the-job training to develop your knowledge, skills and behaviours of the Occupational Standards. The apprenticeship programme lasts around 18 months full-time. You will need to have a subject specialist mentor who can support your progress and development in the workplace. You must achieve maths and English qualifications to at least level 2, prior to your final assessment (known as end-point assessment). This assessment also includes observations of your practice, and a professional discussion (known as a viva). Grading is fail, pass or distinction. However, an apprenticeship is not a formal qualification, but it has a level equal to one, for example, the Diploma in Teaching at level 5.

The assessment plan gives further information. Please check for later versions as things change.

Text books

Just click on any book image to gain further details via Amazon. #ad

This book by me and Gavin Lumsden is suitable for anyone working towards the Learning and Skills Teacher apprenticeship programme, as well as the Diploma in Teaching.

If you wish, you can find out more about qualifications in the FE and Skills Sector and suitable text books for trainee teachers.

Support for end-point assessors

Information and guidance from the Education and Training Foundation is available at the following links:


A traineeship is a skills development programme for 16 to 25 year olds who have an education, health and care (EHC) plan. The programme includes a work placement and can last from 6 weeks up to one year (although most will last for less than 6 months).

Traineeships help learners to get ready for an apprenticeship programme or a job, if they don’t have the appropriate skills or experience.

There is a government webpage with a list of providers, which can be used by young people looking for a traineeships, and by employers looking to offer a traineeship.

Trailblazer groups

Apprenticeships are developed by trailblazer groups. These are groups which:

  • have a wide range of employers who are committed to working actively on the development of a new apprenticeship standard, and intend to use the apprenticeship standard once it’s been approved for delivery

  • have at least 10 different employers as members (in addition to any professional bodies and trade associations who want to be involved)

  • reflect the range of companies which employ people in the occupation – including size, geographical spread and sector. Any trailblazer group should normally include at least two employers with fewer than 50 employees. 

Assessor-coach role

An assessor-coach (also known as an assessment practitioner) is someone who trains and assesses an apprentice during their time working towards the apprenticeship standard. They are not an end-point assessor. For example, a supervisor who coaches someone on a one-to-one basis in their place of work prior to assessing their progress. The apprentices achievements will be assessed by the EPA process (scroll down further). 

Coaching is about providing practical training and support, usually on-the-job. You can then formatively assess the apprentice once they have had sufficient practice at carrying out the task. You might also carry out mock assessments in advance of the EPA process, and assess the apprentice as part of a qualification they are working towards.

Coaching could occur with more than one apprentice at the same time, perhaps if two or three members of staff need to learn how to perform a particular function. It’s useful to treat the coaching role in a similar way to a teaching or a training role. For example, it’s a good idea to carry out an induction and an initial assessment, and to agree a few ground rules. Apprentices should be encouraged to think for themselves, reach their own decisions and set their own action points whenever possible. Coaching sessions should always end on a positive note, with everyone knowing what will happen next. 

If coaching is part of your role, you will need to agree a plan with your apprentice regarding what will be done and when. The plan can be updated as your apprentice progresses. However, coaching could occur spontaneously as the need arises. You should be able to use your skills and knowledge to support the vocational and professional development of your apprentices, wherever this might occur.

Each apprenticeship training programme will have an apprenticeship standard, produced by the trailblazer group for the particular occupation.

The standard will be used by the person training the apprentice on behalf of an organisation which is on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers to ensure all aspects are met.

Apprenticeship standards (in England) are known as Occupational Standards which are developed by employers. They form the basis of T Level qualifications (at level 3). 

They are different to National Occupational Standards (NOS) which are statements of the standards of performance that individuals must achieve when carrying out functions in the workplace. NOS include underpinning knowledge and understanding of the job role.

The apprenticeship standard outlines details of:

  • the occupation/job profile

  • the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to perform the job role

  • entry requirements

  • the level of the programme and the typical time allowed to achieve it

  • whether any qualifications are also included which must be achieved prior to the apprentice taking the end-point assessment, along with any other subjects such as English and maths

  • links to relevant professional association registration and progression (if applicable)

  • when the standard will be reviewed.

The standard should not be treated like a list which is ticked off when the apprentice has achieved something. This is often referred to as the tick box culture, i.e. ticking things off and then moving on to something else. Whilst the apprentice might feel they have achieved something, they might not be able to competently do it again in a month’s time, or when they will be formally assessed (by the end-point assessment) at the end of their training programme. The apprentice will need to demonstrate their competence over time, not just on one occasion.  

You can view various apprenticeship standards.

Assessment plans

In England, the term assessment plan for an apprenticeship programme is not the same as an assessment plan for a learner working towards a qualification. An apprenticeship assessment plan outlines the way in which the full programme will be delivered, assessed and quality assured for a particular occupation. It might or might not also include a relevant qualification. If it does, the normal qualification requirements of formative and summative assessment will apply, which can be carried out by the person training the apprentice, not the end-point assessor who just assesses the apprenticeship programme.

Whilst the nature and methods of assessment will differ between occupations and job roles, all assessment plans will focus on the end-point assessment process (see below).

The assessment plan will set out measures for internal quality assurance which each end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) will need to undertake to ensure quality and consistency. This may include assessor experience and qualifications, training, standardisation activities, and observations.

External quality assurance will also take place.

You can view various assessment plans by searching for a particular occupation.

End-point assessment (EPA)

  • End-point assessment (EPA) is the final stage of an apprenticeship programme. It determines whether the apprentice has the required knowledge, skills and behaviours required for the particular occupational area. It is carried out at the end of an apprentice's training programme. 

  • It is performed by someone other than the person who has been involved with training the apprentice. It often takes place at an end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) and away from the usual apprentice's work place.

  • Most apprenticeship programmes are graded pass, merit, distinction or not yet achieved (NYA) and the apprentice must pass the end-point assessment to achieve their apprenticeship. It might be possible for them to re-take an assessment if they fail. 

If you are the apprentice’s trainer, you will need to prepare your apprentice for end-point assessment, and you will need to see the assessment plan (see section above) to find out what’s involved. For example, ensuring your apprentice knows how to take part in a professional discussion, prepare them for a test or how to give a presentation. Your training organisation will need to liaise with the apprentice's employer and the end-point assessment organisation to arrange assessment. You will need to know when your apprentice is ready to progress to the end-point assessment process. This is known as the 'gateway'. Formative assessment should take place throughout the training period, to ensure the apprentice is progressing towards meeting the standard. 

The EPAO organisation must be approved by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and be on the Register of End-point Assessment Organisations.

If the apprentice is also working towards a qualification, it’s probable you will be able to train as well as assess, providing you meet the requirements of the qualification’s assessment strategy. This can be found in the relevant awarding organisation's qualification specification for the occupational area. However, you will only be assessing towards the qualification, not the apprenticeship programme.

End-point assessment occurs at the end of the apprentice's training programme and is based on the content of the assessment plan, which will:

  • explain in detail what will be assessed (i.e. the knowledge, skills and behaviours which the apprentice must be able to demonstrate)

  • state how the apprentice will be assessed (i.e. which method or methods will be used to judge competency at the end of the apprenticeship programme)

  • indicate who will carry out the assessment (i.e. who will be the assessor(s) for each aspect of the end-point assessment process) and who will make the final decision regarding the competency and grading descriptors. Grades of distinction, merit, pass and not yet achieved (NYA) will probably be used

  • propose quality assurance arrangements to make sure that the assessment is reliable and consistent across different locations, employers, training and assessment organisations.

If you are an end-point assessor, your role will NOT include training your apprentices towards the aspects which you will assess. You will therefore be working for an end-point apprenticeship assessment organisation (EPAO) and you should never have met the apprentice prior to assessing them. 

The qualifications an end-point assessor will need to have will depend upon the requirements outlined in the specific occupational standard and assessment plan.

Examples of EPA activities

The assessment activities will be stated in the apprenticeship standard, and might contain one or more of the following:

  • assignments

  • case studies

  • examinations

  • knowledge tests

  • interviews

  • learner presentation

  • learner showcase

  • multiple choice test

  • observations of practice

  • portfolios of work (work products and/or evidence)

  • professional discussions/VIVA

  • professional practice portfolio

  • questions (written and/or oral)

  • role simulation

  • showcase portfolio

  • situational judgement tests

  • tests (theory and/or practical: in person/online)

  • work projects.

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