Apprenticeships: Initial Assessments

Tom Cheek, Apprenticeship Lead

In this blog we consider the importance of initial assessments for apprentices, with the impact this essential early activity has on the planning and implementation of delivery. Individuals starting apprenticeships bring with them a range of different experiences.  This experience, in terms of both educational and work, will have a direct bearing on the knowledge, skills, and behaviours they bring with them when starting the apprenticeship.

The robustness of the initial assessment should form part of the eligibility assessment. Will the individual learn sufficiently new skills, knowledge and behaviours that can justify the apprenticeship and the public funding associated with it?

Apprenticeships are designed to ensure apprentices develop full occupational competence at completion. The initial assessment therefore is essential in exploring and identifying those knowledge, skills and behaviours that are already at standard, and highlight those that need focused attention, as part of an individual learning plan. Furthermore, the extent of learning need will have a direct bearing on the length of the apprenticeship and funding, with reasonable adjustments applied.

An effective initial assessment creates a solid foundation for which a learning plan can be created, highlighting milestones along the way that ensures progress towards full occupational competence.  For standards, it also allows for behaviours to be more robustly measured, applying progression checks, and ensuring for those apprenticeships (with an end-point assessment), that they are suitably prepared to demonstrate their competence.

It is one thing to collate information through an initial assessment, but it requires the ability to analyse and account for the findings when creating the individual learning plan.  This may result in opportunities for a shortened programme, where there is extensive skills and knowledge apparent when coming onto the apprenticeship.  It may also allow for stretch & challenge for some apprentices, or focused intervention support for others.  Ultimately, it is all about making the provision individually focused.

Initial assessment may look at knowledge, skills, and behaviours, but may also consider digital literacy skills and diagnostics for English and maths. By combining these assessment components together, a full analysis can impact on the learning plan going forward, individualising the learning experience, and promoting strong progression in learning in an effective way for that individual.

Initial assessment can form the foundation for collaboration.  Collaboration between the apprentice, their employer (including workplace mentor) and training provider.  This connective work can identify who is best placed to support in the learning, and create sequencing in the learning activity, whether it be in the classroom, online and the workplace, forming a cohesive learning experience.  By including an End Point Assessment Organisation into the provision early, it will also add value by identifying the assessment needs and ensuring these skills, such as presentation or oral questioning as examples, are represented and considered within the learning plan too.

By creating a solid starting point, with entry points of knowledge, skill and behaviours established, it offers the opportunity for robust tracking of progression in learning too.  How far has a particular apprentice travelled in their learning since the start of the apprenticeship?  What is impacting well and less well on this progression?  By including regular reviews against the initial assessment, these observations can be considered and adaptions made to the learning provision, securing learning that is at pace and towards the readiness for end point assessment.