Apprentice farriers due to take their final exam next month are facing uncertainty after the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) withdrew its approval of the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF).
On 5 October, the FRC announced that in accordance with its statutory powers as the national regulator for farriery, it had withdrawn its approval previously granted to the WFC – stating that it had “lost confidence in WCF’s ability to deliver the end point assessment (EPA) with the appropriate level of assurance”.
Apprentices must sit the EPA to complete their WCF diploma, known as DipWCF, following which they can apply to the FRC register. Farriers must be on the FRC register to legally shoe horses in the UK.
The FRC said the withdrawal was because the WCF’s IT system used for planning and its delivery of qualifications, examinations and assessment “is not supported and its functionality cannot be guaranteed”.
“This places at risk candidates being able to access the EPA on an assured basis, complete their apprenticeship and seek registration,” said an FRC spokesman, who added that it also affects potential approved training farriers (ATFs) being able to access the associate of WCF exam, known as AWCF.
The FRC added that the WCF “failed to give proper notice” to the regulator for qualifications, Ofqual, and to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) in respect of these matters. It added that the WCF had “not fully resolved matters” outstanding from its last approval visit in November 2021 regarding health and safety at examinations, reasonable adjustments for those with special education needs at assessments and access to information for candidates.
“Withdrawal of approval was necessary to safeguard the interests of learners and training providers, and to maintain public confidence. Any qualification awarded outwith the approval of the FRC may not be accepted by the council for the purpose of securing entry to the register of farriers or becoming an ATF.”
The next EPA was scheduled for 17 November (written paper) and 20–24 November (practical exam). The FRC said it is engaged with relevant stakeholders, including Ofqual and IfATE in seeking the “best possible outcomes” for those affected, and an FRC spokesman told H&H the ongoing delivery of EPAs is being considered by Ofqual and IfATE, which will issue guidance “as soon as they are able”.
A spokesman for WCF said the company is “disappointed” at the FRC’s statement and is “working hard to rectify the situation”.
“The company recognises the impact this will have on farriery students, ATFs and the colleges delivering apprenticeship training and every effort will be made to mitigate these impacts,” he said.
“WCF remains committed to the welfare of the horse and its duty of promoting, encouraging and advancing the art and science of farriery and education as it has done over the centuries.”
A WFC spokesman confirmed to H&H that a meeting is taking place tonight (9 October), and a further statement will be released in due course.
An Ofqual spokesman told H&H it is aware of this matter and “in touch with relevant parties to find a resolution”, and an IfATE spokesman added that the institute is “putting in place special measures to make sure every apprentice is able to complete their EPA to industry standards”.
A spokesman for the British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association, which represents and supports farriers, said the association understands “the shock and concern farriers are now feeling”.
“The welfare of apprentices and ATFs is first and foremost our priority. We are aware some of our apprentice members are close to their EPA and any delay of this will obviously cause enormous stress,” he said.
“As the voice of the working farrier, this is something that resonates deeply with all of us and we encourage anyone impacted to reach out to us. We urge all parties to resolve this matter at pace and offer our support in finding a solution for a swift resolution.”
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