Coronavirus (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Last Updated: [18 May 2020]
We have updated our COVID- 19 FAQs document.
This new version incorporates previously answered questions released on 2 April, some of which have been updated to ensure the information is current. Where we have received additional questions, these are highlighted in blue for ease of reference. Please check this page regularly as we will be providing updates to the FAQs based on the latest information.
Please bear with us as we go through your queries. We appreciate your patience with regard to your individual circumstances, while we are developing the guidance so that it is consistently applied.
We continue to monitor the guidelines and advice provided by the UK Government, Public Health England, regulatory bodies and we are doing everything we can to maintain our excellent service levels to support you as the situation evolves.
We recognise you will be understandably concerned about the impact that COVID-19 may have on EAL’s services therefore we are continuing to update our contingency plans to ensure continuity of service for our customers.
Ofqual published a consultation on (24/04/2020) proposing how vocational and technical qualifications are to be awarded this summer. The consultation closes on the 8 May 2020.
The extraordinary framework and ‘key principles’
Ofqual has proposed a new “extraordinary regulatory framework” to permit awarding organisations to deliver results using approaches that would not normally be allowed in ordinary circumstances. It is based on key principles and will be designed to give awarding organisations the flexibility that is needed to deliver results.
The principles that Awarding Bodies must seek to ensure are to:
- issue results to as many learners as possible in Spring/Summer 2020, provided that those results are based on evidence which ensures that they are sufficiently reliable and valid
- ensure that each result issued is as reliable as possible
- ensure that our approach minimises burden and maximises deliverability as far as possible
- maintain standards, as far as possible, within the same qualification in line with previous years
- maintain standards, as far as possible, across similar qualifications made available by us and by other awarding organisations
The framework covers vocational and technical qualifications and any general qualifications which are not covered by the government’s separate plan for GCSEs and A-levels. Guidance has been published by Ofqual for all qualifications to be awarded and graded in Summer 2020 - Awarding Summer 2020.
Qualifications and Approaches
We are working closely with the regulators in line with the guidance provided to ensure the most appropriate way forward is in place for learners to progress with their qualifications. We have reflected on the guidance given by the regulators to date and have been working through each of the qualifications we provide, which fall into one of the following categories:
1 - qualifications where the primary focus is progression to HE/FE
2 - qualifications where there is a dual-mixed purpose (progression to FE, HE or employment)
3 - qualifications where their primary use is licence to practice or occupational competency
We can now confirm that all qualifications which fall into category one, as per the above description, will be assessed through estimation/calculation. For qualifications that fall within categories 2 and 3 we have preliminary identified that the assessments within these qualifications may be adapted in the first instance, where adaption is not appropriate then the next option will be to calculate/estimate results, if both of these methods are not appropriate then assessments will be delayed/rescheduled. For all types of qualifications, we are aiming to avoid delaying/rescheduling assessments, although this may not always be possible. However, learners who do not feel that their result reflects their ability will be afforded an opportunity to complete an assessment at the earliest available opportunity.
A list of all qualifications is provided at the link below. Please note that this list is still subject to final approval from the Department for Education and Ofqual. In the meantime, we are working through the requirements and processes to support you and we will provide a further update, as soon as possible, once we have final approval from the regulators. We will advise you of what these new arrangements mean to you, what we will need from you and the relevant timescales.
Regulators in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland
The regulators in Wales (Qualifications Wales) and Northern Ireland (CCEA) are working closely with Ofqual and will, as far as possible, align their approach to awarding vocational qualifications.
CCEA Regulation will be working with awarding bodies on the clusters of qualifications they offer in Northern Ireland over the coming weeks so an agreed approach to awarding can be made in order to ensure timely delivery of results to learners.
EAL are working closely with SQA Accreditation in Scotland to consider suitable adaptations for accredited qualifications. Accredited qualifications fall into one of three categories:
- SVQs (and Workplace Core Skills)
- Qualifications required for licencing or by regulation
- Other accredited qualifications
Once our proposed approach has been approved, we will inform all recognised centres in Scotland and will update our website with guidance as needed.
Skills Miner – an Enginuity product
We are committed to supporting centres, their staff and learners and although the doors of colleges and training providers may be closed, we remain focused on finding solutions to support you and to help unlock the potential of learners. Specifically designed to uncover hidden engineering skills, Enginuity has released Skills Miner, a set of custom levels inside Minecraft. The game is going to open the eyes of the next generation to the endless engineering career possibilities that suit their skillset. The game has been designed to unlock the hidden skills of young engineers through solving puzzles and problems in an electric vehicle plant. Learners can play today and discover the limitless career pathways that engineering could open for them. #EngineerYourFuture #ElectrifyYourGameplay #Minecraft #SkillsMiner www.skills-miner.com
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Is EAL still operating normal business services?
Yes, significant investment has been made 12 months ago in our technology and infrastructure and we have been able to transition all of our workforce into home working during this period and therefore we are still able to operate and deliver our services using technology. We’re following government advice closely and will be acting in accordance with it.
2. What measures is EAL taking to deal with the outbreak?
We have been building and adapting our contingency plans for a number of weeks and are continuing to provide advice and guidance to all customers during this period of uncertainty. We may make some temporary changes to some of the ways we work together however we will keep you informed of these changes. We are also in daily contact with all stakeholders and regulators to gain agreement to have temporary dispensations around assessment delivery.
3. How can EAL help centres to support their learners with their ongoing learning?
If you have learners learning remotely then our award-winning Engineering Talent platform -https://www.engineeringtalent.org.uk/ provides an outstanding resource for you with learning materials validated by our subject matter experts. Our Customer Experience Team are on hand to support you should you need any help in accessing Engineering Talent or wish to have a remote demo. They can be contacted on email@example.com or +44 (0)1923 652400.
4. Should I notify EAL if my centre is closing?
Yes, you should notify EAL if your centre is temporarily closing, please contact our Customer Experience team in writing at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following:
- Confirm your decision to close your centre including the date of closure.
- Confirm details of booked assessments, time and venues for suspension of booking.
- When appropriate, inform EAL of your continuation of assessments.
You should also inform us if the Centre contact details are different from the ones stored within SmarterTouch or alternatively you can update these on your centre profile in https://www.ealsmartertouch.com/
Invoices will still be generated in the same manner and emailed to your nominated contact in Smarter Touch. e-Invoices are also available to download via your Centre Coordinators Online Services account.
EAL Centres – Regulated Qualifications Questions
1. Will my EQA still support our direct claims status lapsing or certification?
Our External Quality Assurance (EQA) team will still be supporting centres as planned, however, face to face visits have been postponed until further notice based on government advice. Each centre will be risk-assessed to determine the requirement for EQA remote sampling. The EQA Team are using the technology available to them to conduct visits remotely. Where a centre does not have direct claim status and learners are ready to claim their certificates your EQA will discuss with you to determine if the claims can be validated remotely or whether a visit to site will be needed once government restrictions have been removed. We will, at all times, consider the impact on learners when making our decision.
2. Are online examinations still running? Will there be any disruption?
The majority of EAL examinations are on-demand and not timetabled. As a result, our customers will still be able to schedule and run examinations for learners as normal. You may wish to reschedule your examinations to fit in with your own delivery arrangements and we will consider and remain as flexible as possible. In addition, EAL’s examination system does permit sittings to be undertaken in various settings in line with our ‘Instructions for Conducting Examinations within EAL Qualifications’.
3. Can online examination be taken at alternative location?
Yes – this is still possible. Where a centre conducts online external assessments they are responsible for ensuring that the awarding organisation requirements are met for downloading software and examination materials. You must also ensure that all technical requirements have been met. Some technical requirements will need to be met in advance of the examination.
4. Will EAL be extending the certification end date for Functional Skills qualifications?
The certification end date for legacy qualifications was set for 31 August 2020. Ofqual has now extended the certification end date for legacy functional skills qualifications to 31 December 2020. EAL’s intention is to align with this extension to support learners who are currently registered on these qualifications (but not yet certificated) ensuring they have an opportunity to complete them. The government policy is for learners due to take FSQ assessments before the end of the summer, receive a calculated result rather than an adapted or postponed assessment therefore we will be writing to all our centres delivering FSQs shortly. There may be some circumstances where it may not be possible to calculate results therefore, we will work with customers to provide appropriate advice and guidance.
5. Will EAL be offering paper-based exams?
No, we have decided that paper-based exams will not be issued until further notice following government advice on social distancing and staying at home that means learners are unable to attend in person at the training centre. Centres have the facility to undertake functional skills exams online via our examination platform. Centres should contact our Exams Team at email@example.com for further advice and guidance on transferring to use online exams.
6. I don’t have access to register learners, certificate or schedule exams, what do I do?
Contact our Customer Experience team in the first instance for direct support at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)1923 652400. They will help with registering learners and direct your enquiry where appropriate to schedule exams.
7. My learner has been impacted and is at a disadvantage due to the outbreak. Can any consideration for this be made?
Centres should consider the option for submitting a request for a special consideration for the learner, please refer to our ‘Special Consideration’ policy. Please add as much detail as possible and ensure supporting evidence is provided.
8. Can I still apply for reasonable adjustments?
Yes, Centres should apply for a reasonable adjustment as normal via our Smarter Touch system and in line with our Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration policy.
9. Can Centres use witness testimonies to support a learner’s practical competence?
Suitable methods of assessment should be used when assessing learners. Expert witness testimonies can be used to support competence-based outcomes.
10. Can I still register and certificate my learners on EAL’s online services?
Yes, EAL’s online services are not affected in any way so you can continue to register and certificate your learners as normal.
11. Are EAL still able to despatch learner certificates?
No – Unfortunately due to restrictions on travel and social distancing, our Certification Team are unable to despatch certificates currently. Centres are however able to download e-certificates from Online Services. Once social distancing restrictions are removed, certificates will be despatched to centres as normal. Learners are to contact their centres if they require a copy of their e-certificates.
12. Can we get learner certificates sent to centre staff home addresses instead?
No, unfortunately not due to data protection restrictions. In addition, EAL, does not hold personal contact details of centre staff and learners, nor have their permission to contact learners directly.
13. What happens if I am an overseas EAL Centre?
Our team will continue to work with and support all International Centres and Partners. Although business travel has been suspended, we will use video conferencing and technology to maintain dialogue.
14. Can I still get a replacement certificate/candidate record search?
Yes. You can contact our Customer Experience Team (email@example.com) who will be able to help. Our team can process most record searches but only validate certificates at this time. You can contact your training provider/college who will be able to provide you with an e-certificate.
15. Will ‘Online Proctoring Software’ be made available for onscreen examinations?
EAL are currently exploring this as an option to support centres. Until further information is provided, please note that onscreen/paper-based examinations will need to be invigilated in person in accordance with EAL’s EAF1 - Instructions for Conducting Examinations within EAL Qualifications
16. Can onscreen examinations be invigilated and administered by the learner’s employers?
Yes, however, certain control measures will need to be put in place to ensure the validity of the examination. Centres will be expected to provide an appropriate level of training to the employer and to document that the training has occurred. Guidance and training materials will be available in Smarter Touch shortly - External Assessment Contingency Guidance and Examination Invigilation Guidance.
17. Which qualifications/assessments are affected by COVID-19 disruption mitigations?
Vocational Technical Qualifications (VTQ) which have learners who expect/require assessment results between 20th March and 31st July 2020 who would be disadvantaged if they did not receive their assessment results fall under the scope of the mitigating actions. VTQ’s include the following qualifications Types, Vocational knowledge-based qualifications, NVQ/competency-based qualifications, Occupational qualifications.
End-Point Assessment (EPA) Questions
1. Are EAL still delivering EPA services?
Yes, we remain operational, all of our workforce is home working during this period and therefore we are still able to operate and deliver our services using technology. Although EAL has currently postponed all face to face EPA visits based on government advice, we have agreements in place with our External Quality Assurance (EQA) Providers / IfATE which has allowed many flexibilities to be put in place so EPAs can still go ahead.
2. Can I still register my apprentice for EPA?
Yes, registrations can continue to be made on all standards.
3. Can I still progress my apprentice to the Gateway stage?
Yes, EAL will continue to process gateway activity in line with current standard processes. We will continue to accept digital signatures on gateway declaration forms.
4. What is EAL’s position on remote assessment?
Working with the External Quality Assurance Providers, EAL have gained approval to deliver VIVA interviews and Professional Discussions remotely and these will be recorded events in agreement with the Employer, Training Providers and Apprentices. Where EAL have agreed a change to the assessment method with the EQA provider, this will only be temporary and will not set a precedent for delivering EPA assessments. We will discuss alternative assessment methods with you prior to delivery to ensure they will be delivered securely and provide valid outcomes.
5. Where a workplace observation is required as part of the EPA can this now be conducted remotely?
Where a face to face observation cannot be delivered, as set out in the assessment plan, we continue to work with our EQA Providers to gain approval for observations to be completed remotely or alternatively we may need to reschedule the observation.
6. I am an employer and the training provider has closed due to the outbreak, will the apprentice’s assessment still take place?
EAL have worked closely with the EQA Providers to gain approval to adapt our delivery methodology where appropriate. Whilst we have postponed all face to face EPA visits based on government advice, we are using technology to enable remote assessment to take place where we have approval to do so. You should talk to your Training Provider where possible or you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Can EAL still complete EPA for a furloughed worker where this apprentice is still being supported on their apprenticeship and a valid assessment can take place?
The Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education (IfATE) has introduced guidance on the delivery of assessment, including guidance on furloughed employees continuing apprenticeship training, specifically this confirms flexibilities to allow furloughed apprentices to take their end-point assessment. Guidance. Further guidance can be provided by contacting us at email@example.com.
8. Can a pause in learning be taken during the EPA?
A pause in learning can be taken at any point post gateway, including between end point assessment methods for 12 weeks
Where there is a specified time limit for EPA post gateway, a further pause of 12 weeks is allowable
9. My apprentice needs a copy of their qualification certificate confirming they have completed the mandatory qualifications to go through Gateway but I am not able to obtain the certificate from the awarding body?
We understand that awarding bodies cannot currently issue certificates therefore as a temporary measure we are supporting providers and employers by accepting a confirmation email from the awarding body as evidence of achievement. To ensure authentication, emails submitted to our EPA team must contain the following information:
- learner details
- certification run date
- unique number
10. Components of the Apprenticeship Standards that apprentices are required to complete contain an Exam or a practical observation as part of the assessed outcomes. Can EAL deliver these under the current circumstances?
We are currently looking into the feasibility of delivering both, in conjunction with our quality assurance and exams teams considering the flexibilities to be able to conduct remote exams, invigilation and practical observations. We are continuing to liaise with the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education as well as our External Quality Assurance Bodies.
11. Which Standards offered by EAL have been given approval for flexibilities to assessments?
We currently have approval from the relevant Apprenticeship External Quality Assurance body to deliver temporary discretions or other flexibilities against 13 standards and continue to work to enable these end-point assessments to take place as planned
Further information on the agreed flexibilities can be provided by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org