Icon has registered to be the End Point Assessment organisation for the newly developed Cultural Heritage Conservation Technician and Conservator apprenticeship standards. This is a natural role for Icon as the professional body for the conservation profession in the UK, and is crucial in helping us to maintain the high levels of professional practice expected from conservation professionals.
All apprenticeship standards in England now require apprentices to successfully complete final assessments before they can be officially signed off as having completed their apprenticeships. These final exams are also known as ‘End Point Assessment’. This is undertaken by an organisation who has not been directly involved in training apprentices throughout their programmes. This approach is very similar to ‘trade exams’ which formed a key part of traditional apprenticeship programmes in the past.
To become the recognised End Point Assessment organisation for the two apprenticeship standards, we needed to go through the process of registering with the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
Through a detailed application process, Icon was required to submit separate applications for both the Cultural Heritage Conservation Technician and Conservator apprenticeship standards. The application process required us to explain our approach to undertaking end point assessment, demonstrate our industry competence and finally to demonstrate how we would undertake this role in a consistent and fair manner.
As part of the application process, we needed to carefully review our existing policies and to develop new policies where appropriate to ensure we were able to meet our statutory obligations as a government recognised assessment centre. As part of this process, we sought to ensure that our policies represented best practice in the sector.
Both applications were approved. As such Icon is now recognised as the only end point assessment organisation for both apprenticeship standards. We are delighted that through this role we will be able to effectively continue our role in ensuring that the high standards of the conservation profession can be effectively assessed.
Ultimately this has been a hugely beneficial process for Icon, requiring us to take the time to thoroughly reflect on our assessment practice.
Prior to embarking on the registration process, our assessment experience had largely been focused on the delivery of Icon Accreditation. Whilst being an EPAO for apprenticeship standards is essentially the same role, externally validating the proficiency of professional conservators, it operates in a highly regulated environment.
One of our first actions was to break down and critically review our assessment processes which we deliver internally, and review against the End Point Assessment plan which had been signed off by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Although we had been heavily involved in developing this plan, we did not necessarily have experience of having conducting an assessment in such a structured way. Reassuringly it helped us come to the conclusion that we’re already doing a pretty good job! However, this doesn’t mean we haven’t learned a huge amount from going through this process.
Through reviewing our policies and procedures we were able to collate the information that we already had in place, and turn these into a clear suite of policies which were easier to interpret and implement across all assessment processes. This process allowed us to ensure that we were fully compliant with the latest legislation and best practice across the education and training sector.
Furthermore, in critically examining our assessment practice, we were able to think through the way in which we run other assessment processes, namely Icon Accreditation. For example, we will be using the policies developed for the delivery of End Point Assessment, and use these to review the policies which relate to Accreditation. We will also be thinking through the ways of thinking through the roles of individual groups within the assessment process to ensure we are being clear in how we define what their roles are within the assessment process.
All apprenticeship End Point Assessment processes must go through a process of external quality assurance to ensure that those completing apprenticeships across England - regardless of whether they have completed a conservation or a construction apprenticeship - have been assessed and judged fairly.
Originally this service was being delivered by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, however, it is now being delivered by Ofqual. Icon will now be embarking on the process of registering with Ofqual.
We will also be actively working with employers and training providers to support, where we can, the setting up of sustainable and well-respected apprenticeship opportunities across England, as well as to continue to work with relevant organisations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to ensure we can make the most of future opportunities to develop the vocational education offer.