We understand and appreciate the range of enquiries we are receiving from our customers during these unprecedented times and we are continuing to work closely with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) and EPA Quality Assurance Providers (EQAPs); the Apprenticeship Assessment Service and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), and a host of support agencies to try and provide answers and solutions to all of your concerns and challenges as quickly as possible. We are monitoring guidance on a daily basis and will share further announcements made by the government as they happen.
To supplement our direct correspondence support, we will be publishing answers to some of our most frequently asked questions (FAQs)* here for you.
Please also find more advice and guidance from IfATE here
*We will be updating this page regularly, so we encourage you to please check-in and stay up to date with our latest information here. (last updated 17/09/20)
Changes to arrangements for EPA apply with immediate effect.
Can we still register our apprentices for EPA?
Registrations can still be made via our online system, Odyssey.
What Gateway evidence can be submitted?
If it is not possible to submit a certification of statement of results from an awarding body, we will accept the following evidence types for maths/English/other qualifications. The evidence must state the apprentice’s full name, date of birth, the name of the qualification, the name of the awarding organisation, the date of achievement and the grade awarded:
- Personal Learning Record (PLR)
- SIMS or CMIS report but this must be authenticated by the school/college and signed by an examinations officer or similar.
- Covid-19 Dispensation only: evidence from an Awarding Organisation – this can be a screenshot or an email, but it must contain an official signature.
Can Gateway be signed off remotely?
We can accept digital signatures for Gateway and if that is not possible, an email from the employer confirming readiness for EPA. If the EPA plan specifies a time limit by which the EPA must be completed post Gateway, this may now be extended by up to 12 weeks.
What do we do if we have already scheduled EPAs?
If you have already scheduled EPAs and you need to postpone, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss alternative dates. This applies whether you have scheduled the dates on Odyssey or discussed with a member of the EPA team. We will need you to share with us the reasons for postponement or cancellation, as we need to keep a record of changes so that we can work with you to reschedule activities in line with guidance from the regulators.
Do the EPA assessment methods still have to be completed in the set order?
No. The requirement for assessment methods to be completed in a set order has been relaxed to allow for flexibility in delivery, where this is deemed reasonable and flexible.
Are there alternative arrangements for standards requiring a mandated face-to-face assessment?
We can conduct remote assessments where appropriate and are happy to discuss alternative solutions for your organisation.
We are carrying out face-to-face observations for a number of standards and can talk you through how these can be conducted safely and in line with Covid-19 guidance regarding safe working practices and social distancing.
Some standards have had flexibilities agreed, for example, regarding the length of time of a live observation, and this information can be found under the individual standard heading.
Can standards that can be assessed remotely be carried out at home?
Yes, they can. Professional discussions and interviews can be carried out at the apprentice’s home. You will need to let us know what arrangements have been put in place and confirm that the apprentice has the appropriate technology, which will include a webcam (video/audio) and ideally headphones. Our team can talk you through how the assessment will be carried out and provide the apprentice with guidance on how to use the online system.
If an apprentice has completed part of the EPA but now cannot progress what should we do?
If, for example, the apprentice has completed a knowledge test but cannot progress on to the next part of the EPA, they can be put on a break in learning. This can be for up to 12 weeks.
Please keep us informed about any breaks in learning that are issued and ensure you update the ILR. The information from the ILR informs the pipeline of EPA activity.
Can an apprentice continue with their apprenticeship training and their EPA if they have been furloughed?
Apprentices can carry out training and assessment if they have been furloughed and they can undertake their EPA. However, EPA is not considered essential travel at this time so this can only happen if the EPA is able to be carried out remotely.
If the EPA contains a work-based project it may be possible for the apprentice to complete this from home under furlough.
Ofqual have published their approach to assessment for vocational and technical skills in light of coronavirus (COVID-19), which includes confirmation that students due to take functional skills assessments until 31 July 2020 will receive a calculated grade. Taking into account this guidance, and the fact that scheduled functional skills assessments are not taking place as planned, the rule requiring level 2 apprentices to study towards, and attempt, level 2 functional skills assessments is suspended temporarily. This will allow apprentices, employers, training providers and EPA providers to focus on other key requirements for completion of a level 2 apprenticeship.
Therefore, apprentices who are due to take their EPA up until 31 December 2020 should be passed through gateway to sit their EPA without the need to attempt the level 2 functional skills English and maths assessment. Main providers should retain evidence if an apprentice did not take the level 2 assessments due to coronavirus. A level 2 apprentice will still require a level 1 functional skills in English and/or maths in order to complete apprenticeship.
Apprentices undertaking a level 3 or higher apprenticeship are still required to hold or achieve an approved level 2 functional skills English and maths qualification before they can successfully complete their apprenticeship. Ofqual has also confirmed that it will extend the regulation end date for legacy functional skills qualifications in English and maths to 31 December 2020.
Will SFJ Awards continue to issue results?
We will continue to upload a Statement of Achievement on to Odyssey and claim certificates via the ESFA portal.
Are cancellation charges still in operation?
We understand that these are very difficult and uncertain times, and that personal situations are changing daily. We will do all we can to minimise disruption and provide support to you and your apprentices and will adapt our approach to work on a case by case basis.
A full list of standards with temporary discretions or flexibilities is here:
Please contact us to discuss how these can be applied in your organisation.
Guidance from the DFE and ESFA
The SFJ Awards EPA Team are here to support you during these difficult times.
Please contact us for advice on any EPA issues or to keep us updated.