Initial assessment for apprenticeship standards is vital to get right.
Although providers are having to look carefully at how they account for Recognition of Prior Learning, initial assessment is no longer just about compliance. In the world of apprenticeship standards, it needs to be central to the way you develop the curriculum and training plan for each apprentice. That’s why Ofsted are looking closely at this too.
A few months back, we spoke to Ofsted’s apprenticeship lead, Chris Jones, about the importance of initial assessment in underpinning the curriculum and learning plan for each apprentice, what good practice looks like and how this might be evidenced.
Here’s what Chris had to say…
The link between compliance and quality
Under the new Education Inspection Framework, Ofsted is looking for evidence that an apprentice is building on previous teaching and learning and developing the new knowledge and skills they need to be competent in a job role.
This means, initial assessment must establish and record (right at the start of an apprenticeship) what the apprentice knows, understands and can do already. With this knowledge, providers can set the baseline from which a curriculum for an individual apprentice can be developed and delivered.
How does this tie into the new inspection framework?
Ofsted looks for evidence across three themes: intent, implementation and impact. Collecting robust evidence of current competency at initial assessment stage supports training providers demonstrate their quality of delivery throughout a learning programme.
Intent – by establishing a baseline set of knowledge, skills and behaviours you can adjust your schemes of work so they are suitable for each apprentice.
Implementation – with an individual learning plan designed based on initial assessment evidence, you can demonstrate how it is being implemented throughout the programme.
Impact – initial assessment provides the starting point that subsequent on-programme assessments can be compared against. i.e. you can show the distance a learner has travelled as they pick up new knowledge and begin to apply this as skills and behaviours at work.
Listen to Chris Jones explain this concept in more detail:
“Initial assessment has to be more than just a confidence checklist”
Without the structure of frameworks and (in many cases) qualification to fall back on, it is vitally important to be asking the right questions relating to the knowledge, skills and behaviours defined in the apprenticeship standard. You’re trying to tease out what an apprentice already knows and what they can already do, so you can design a suitable training plan where they aren’t going to go over ground they already know, and are being stretched and challenged.
In practice, this means your initial assessment process has to become much more than a confidence checklist because you don’t want to fall into the trap of potential apprentices saying they know everything (trying to impress in a new role) or know nothing (because they lack confidence), when the truth is probably somewhere in between.
Critical questioning is needed that teases out the depth of knowledge and an expert moderator (such as the curriculum lead) should confirm that potential apprentices are at the base level they say they are at.
Read our blog on initial assessment underpinning your curriculum for further advice in this area.
The importance of validation
Once testing questions have been asked, validation is desirable to fine tune the curriculum still further. Providers may, for example, look at what an apprentice has said at interview or as part of a confidence checklist and validate that after a period of learning or experience has taken place.
Validation might be an interview with a coach/mentor/tutor after three or four weeks. It is about focusing in on where an apprentice has said they are strong and seeing if they are able to demonstrate that now learning has started. If they can’t, it may need to be covered as part of the training.
Likewise, even if an apprentice has a strong knowledge or skills base in a particular area, a good learning plan would look to test and enhance that throughout the programme, to make sure apprentices are ready to demonstrate this at the end-point assessment. Validation can support that testing process.
Listen to Chris Jones explain validation in more detail:
What about initially assessing English, maths and digital skills?
Initial assessing English and maths deserves the same thoroughness as initially assessing prior knowledge, skills and behaviours. It is not enough to view an apprentice’s prior achievement and put them through online learning to get to the next level, without any teaching.
Ofsted is clear that learners should be stretched and challenged, and a curriculum built with the highest expectations of each learner. By conducting a thorough initial assessment for English and maths will give you an understanding of where apprentices need most support and design a tailored programme to help them reach their potential.
Think about who is best placed to carry out your initial assessment process. Make sure your compliance, curriculum and quality teams are:
- working closely together to design a robust initial assessment process
- sharing the results of each initial assessment with the staff who need to see it
- using this data as a basis to design, refine and deliver a bespoke training programme, with the learner at its heart
Not only will this help you to develop apprenticeship training that is compliance and high quality, but also provide the evidence the ESFA and Ofsted are looking for.
Webinar series: Getting initial assessment right for apprenticeship standards
SDN ran a webinar series to help providers develop their initial assessment practice. Content covered:
- Initial assessment and its impact on curriculum planning
- Initial assessment, compliance and calculating prior learning
- The component parts of initial assessment
- Methods of assessment and interview techniques
You an purchase the web recordings of this webinar series from our CPD webinar recordings library.