We have been asked repeatedly by our membership and the wider farriery industry to provide further explanation of what has happened to date and importantly what is being done to resolve it.
It is not the BFBA’s position to point a finger of blame but we have been asked to help our membership (registered farriers, ATFs and importantly apprentices of 44S), to understand what has happened and why.
We do feel that statements should be forthcoming to help not just manage the expectations of those involved in these deferred exams but also in the interest of the wider farriery industry.
The Farriery End Point Assessment – update (23/10/23)
The British Farriers and Blacksmith Association (BFBA) are continuing to monitor the current situation regarding the issues involving the forthcoming end point assessment (EPA). We understand that this is an extremely distressing time for all involved – particularly ATFs and their apprentices due to take final exams. We have tried to ensure that we have the most up to date and correct information before making comment.
The BFBA encourage the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF) and Farriers Registration Council (FRC) to work together to resolve this situation as quickly as possible on behalf of all those affected, and will continue to offer our ongoing support where it is appropriate to our members.
We understand the upset and confusion caused by this development and aim to be open and transparent in answering some frequently asked questions that have been brought to our attention.
1 – Who is OFQUAL and IfATE?
The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England.
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) work to develop, approve, review and revise apprenticeships and technical qualifications. They are the government organisation that has approved our work based apprenticeship.
2 – Why did the FRC remove the WCF as an EPAO?
It is our understanding that the FRC didn’t remove the WCF as the EPAO – they can’t. The EPAO is awarded by IfATE.
The FRC award the approval for the exam to be used as evidence that successful candidates can have a license to practice farriery. It is this approval that has been withdrawn by the FRC.
The FRC removed approval based on one main issue:
The WCF decided to change its IT supplier for all of the Company’s WCF’s software including the bespoke examination software that all Company WCF examinations rely upon. The new IT supplier was not able to run or support the examination software. As a result, the FRC’s confidence that the WCF could successfully run the examinations was affected. The WCF has stated that as of 16th Oct 2023 the computer software problem has been largely resolved.
There are some residual matters that were outstanding from a previous visit by FRC in 2021. These matters were being discussed between the WCF and FRC and have mostly been addressed. They are:
1 – Reasonable adjustments for special educational means.
The WCF do and have always had in place provisions to cater for candidates with special educational needs. They offer a reader and/or a scribe, along with extra time where required, which is approved by IfATE and Ofqual under the WCF’s Fair Access policy. FRC would like the WCF to allow the use of computers for candidates with special needs for the exam. This is under review and is being discussed amongst the necessary parties.
2 – Health and Safety Risk Assessments and policy:
The WCF have Health and Safety (H&S) Risk Assessments for all examinations. The three Colleges also have their own H&S Risk Assessments. The FRC’s question was surrounding the boundaries of responsibility (between the Colleges and the WCF) in the event of certain incidents that sometimes happen when performing farriery and working with horses. This is complex as different organisations are working under the same umbrella at an exam. The WCF have updated their documents to explain who bears responsibility. The safety of apprentices has – and will always be – a priority and includes a H&S briefing to candidates before every exam session.
3 – Access to Information for Candidates:
The new EPA is a different exam to the Diploma, with extra elements. Under the new government Trailblazer apprenticeships, access to information is different. Under the old apprenticeship system, all information regarding the Diploma was accessed through the WCF’s website, under “examinations” and was called the “Syllabus”. The EPA does not have a Syllabus as such but is called The Standard. The Standard is accessed through the WCF and IfATE website in a condensed format for all learners. A full version of the Standard is available from the WCF Registrar upon request. This is because the documents are commercially sensitive; all EPAO organisations operate a similar system. FRC are aware of this and have identified that it is NOT the responsibility of the WCF to openly publish these documents, but want a solution for all parties, so no learner is disadvantaged.
3 – Why didn’t the BFBA stop the EPA being withdrawn from the WCF?
The BFBA do not have the legal or constitutional power to overturn decisions made by the FRC. The FRC was informed by the WCF that it was not able to meet its legal requirements and therefore the FRC felt they had no choice other than to remove approval. The WCF must inform the government’s educational bodies – IfATE and Ofqual that it cannot meet its requirements. In order to be re-approved the WCF now needs to address the areas that FRC have stated in their withdrawal.
As disappointing as it is to see this happening it would be hard to justify supporting an EPA that ‘might not meet’ the requirements of the FRC. It is vital this EPA is carried out correctly in order to preserve its value, and protect equine welfare.
4 – What is the point of having BFBA appointees on Council and why didn’t they inform the BFBA’s executive committee (EC)?
The BFBA have 2 appointees on the FRC council. These individuals are appointed by the EC as respected and professional farriers to represent the industry and the working farrier appropriately (in matters that are specific to regulation). As working farriers they are very aware of the issues and challenges that our members face in their daily working lives and ensure that these are shared appropriately with other Council members. We trust them to make decisions and vote appropriately in the best interests of farriers. Their decisions are never made lightly They are not (and never have been) there to vote strategically or make decisions on behalf of the BFBA, we just ask them to vote as professional farriers for what they feel is right. They are trusted by us and have the EC’s full support to make appropriate and informed decisions that they believe would be in the best interest of the farrier (and the wider industry).
When ALL appointees (farriers/vets/equine organisations and lay people) are appointed to FRC council they all agree to abide by both the ‘Nolan principles’ and a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement not allowing them to disclose anything that is discussed in a meeting until the minutes of the meeting have been ratified (formally signed off). This is standard practice for many committees that discuss sensitive and important matters and is not something specific to the FRC. It is commonly and widely used in all areas including government, business and charitable organisations.
5 – Does the FRC have the power to remove the end-point assessment organisation (EPAO)?
No. The FRC do not have the power to remove the WCF as the EPAO. The WCF’s EPAO status can only be removed by IfATE. FRC can however remove the WCF or any other EPAO as re-recognised assessors of the EPA for UK registration purposes. The DipWCF is still the recognised farriery qualification for UK registration.
When the Diploma changed to the EPA, the FRC Approvals Committee expected to see the Standard (what used to be called the syllabus) on the WCF website. The EPA is run as a business and so the Standard won’t be displayed on the WCF website. All candidates who are registered apprentices have full access to everything they require for the EPA. The FRC were unaware of this change regarding the new apprenticeship.
If the WCF is unable to maintain legal requirements this could have many serious repercussions. To maintain the ‘gold standard’ the exam must be fair and consistent. The WCF could face hefty fines if they fail to meet those requirements by OFQUAL and IfATE. We need to encourage the WCF to give everyone a realistic timeframe for their new plan which includes the registration of a new EPAO company with IfATE, formed by the WCF exam group to deliver the EPA. This new company will still have to solve all the issues that were highlighted by FRC, register with IfATE and gain approval from the FRC as the new awarding body for the EPA.
6 – When did the BFBA’s EC first know about the situation?
The EC was first aware when the statement was released by the FRC on the 5th October 2023. This was voted on at an FRC meeting on Wednesday 27th September 2023. Due to confidentiality and disclosure agreements, as described above, the outcome was not and could not be discussed with the rest of the EC.
7 – As an apprentice on 44S about to take my EPA in November, what do I do now?
You are still a registered apprentice as long as you have an Approved Training Farrier (ATF). Your employment with your ATF will depend on your individual employment contract and now needs to be adjusted. You and your ATF now need to agree and draw up an addendum to this contract which formally agrees to extend the time span on the employment contract.
8 – I am an ATF with an apprentice about to take their EPA, where does this leave me?
You now need to agree a new addition to your employment contract with them. This means that you can continue employing your apprentice until this issue is resolved. This addition can be very simple and by both of you agreeing to continue the employment until the EPA has been carried out. If you are an ATF member using a BFBA contract please get in touch – we can help you with this addition to your contract.
9 – When will this be resolved and when will the exams be running again?
Unfortunately, we do not know the answer to this. All BFBA can (and will) do is encourage all the parties involved to rectify this situation as soon as possible whilst we continue to support our members however we can. We are now reliant on the WCF redefining what and how it will be the EPAO that it was licensed to be.
The WCF examinations board is confident that as of 16th October 2023 that its normal IT systems have been restored and are fully operational for any EPA and the WCF’s other, higher, examinations. There are still some issues to be resolved, but examinations will be back to normal as soon as possible. OFQUAL and IfATE might also now need to be involved.
10 – There is so much information on the internet I’m not sure what to believe.
As with all information on the internet there is good and bad information. Please be aware that some of the information online is inaccurate. We encourage all farriers to allow the relevant parties to work towards resolving the issues as promptly as possible.
There is a huge amount of work ongoing by all the organisations involved. Everybody that is involved (from colleges to examiners) are working tirelessly to get the farriery apprenticeship end point assessment back on track.
BFBA encourages all of its members to come forward with any further questions – we will try to answer them as quickly and accurately as possible. As soon as further, confirmed information, is available we will be in touch directly.