Ailin O’Cathain is the Head of Policy for the Federation of Awarding Bodies

Written to respond to ‘Qualifications Wales (Monetary Penalties) Regulations: Correcting Misconceptions’ published on 24 January 2019:

We welcome the responsive manner in which Qualifications Wales deals with concerns raised by our members.

As this is ultimately a matter of securing public confidence in regulated qualifications wherever they may happen to be awarded, the Federation will always want to engage positively with regulators to ensure the best outcomes for both learners and employers.

Promoting a dynamic market in qualifications, providing learners with genuine choice, should always be at the forefront of considerations when introducing new regulations. 

UK Turnover

As the original article ‘Qualifications Wales: The penalties cap needs to fit’  points out, the key issue is that the proposal is to apply the cap based on UK turnover, not turnover in Wales, which for most awarding organisations is a small proportion of their annual turnover. 

Had the proposal been to set the cap at 10% of annual turnover in Wales, our consultation response would undoubtedly have been different.

Qualifications Wales may indeed decide, on a case by case basis, to impose monetary penalties below the 10% cap. But if the proposals are implemented, the risk of a 10% penalty, based on UK turnover, is what awarding bodies will need to consider in their ongoing risk assessments.

Room for Interpretation

Philip Blaker also points out that “as long as awarding bodies remain compliant with our regulatory requirements and protect the interests of learners, they should not consider themselves to be at risk of monetary policies.”

The Federation knows how much effort our members go to, to comply with the Standard Conditions of Recognition, the 53 page ‘rule book’. We also know that some of the Conditions in that document leave room for interpretation; an issue that has been discussed as part of the work Qualifications Wales is undertaking to review its Conditions.

We await the consultation on the revised Standard Conditions which we believe is due this Spring.

Double Jeopardy

In terms of the potential double jeopardy situation, Qualifications Wales will “automatically consider any relevant action taken by any other regulatory body in respect of the same or related matter”.

If this is intended to take the potential for double penalties off the table then a more overt statement from the regulators, stating that double penalties will not be imposed, would be welcome.

Providing a more concrete assurance could give awarding bodies confidence they can safely remove this item from their risk registers.

Ailin O’Cathain is the Head of Policy for the Federation of Awarding Bodies, the trade association for vocational/technical awarding bodies

About the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB): The trade association for vocational assessment and awarding organisations, the Federation has 122 full members, ranging from the large awarding organisations through to smaller, sector specific awarding organisations. Membership includes many chartered institutes and professional bodies. 

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