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Tips for EpAOs preparing their annual statement of compliance for Ofqual

For many EpAOs, 2022 will be their first year of completion of an Ofqual Annual Statement of Compliance. This is a critical undertaking for any organisation regulated by Ofqual and will require EpAOs to satisfy themselves that they comply with all the Ofqual Conditions relevant to end-point assessment (remember there are some EPA specific Conditions as well as the general Conditions).

Every EpAO will approach this differently but here are my top 10 self-evaluation style tips to prepare your organisation for the annual statement of compliance:

1, Attend Ofqual webinars and make sure you are up to speed with the latest Ofqual Conditions, publications and notifications

Ofqual issue you with letters and notifications via their portal, and they also run webinars on the annual statement of compliance. Please make sure you regularly monitor your portal and attend Ofqual webinars, after all they are being delivered to keep you informed, and to help you.

During the year, Ofqual also publish statements and articles, all of which are important to read as they may help you improve your service. Recent publications include: Equality and diversity, accessibility, special considerationsreasonable adjustments, reviews and appeals, Surveys.

If you do print the Conditions, make sure you have the latest version, as updates were made in May 2022.

Each Year, in addition to confirming compliance with the Conditions, Ofqual will focus in on specific areas (Key lines of enquiry). For example, in 2021 there was a specific focus on organisational (financial) stability, IT risk management (cyber and data security), and end-point assessments (development of assessments, level of demand). This year there will be a focus on organisational (financial) stability, third parties, confidentiality, governance and conflicts of interest (organisation and individual level). They will have already sent you the details of the additional questions for this year.

2, Create a checklist

I would strongly recommend creating a checklist of all the Ofqual Conditions, and to work your way through it to check that you are operating in accordance with the Conditions, and that you can evidence it. Many of you may remember me saying in my hints and tips articles last year, to map your Ofqual application to the Conditions as well as the Criteria.  If you took that approach, then you will be well on your way to a productive self-evaluation process.

As you run through the checklist consider adding:

  • Where the evidence can be found, and the security protocols around accessing the evidence (helps to demonstrate your compliance with confidentiality and data protection requirements);
  • Whether there have been any changes mid-year to any policies, procedures or documents related to that Condition, and why;
  • Details of who is responsible and accountable, or at least cross checking that your records of who is responsible and accountable remains accurate (refer to point 4 below).

This process will enable you to feel confident that you are meeting the Conditions, whilst at the same time enable you to identify where there may be gaps, or further checks to be made.  Whilst you do this, please be honest with yourselves, there is little point in having a list of the Ofqual Conditions and a reference to a document which you have not double checked continues to cover the requirements of the Conditions.

3, Check / Review your Governance structures

For many EpAOs, this is their first year operating under the governance structures established as part of their Ofqual submission (they will have had a governance structure pre-Ofqual, but many had to make adaptations in order to comply with the Ofqual Conditions on governance).  Many have set up new advisory groups, review groups, or subcommittees to bring scrutiny, challenge, and to provide advice and support (some with delegated decision-making powers), that ultimately feed into the Governing Body (the Governing Body, organisation directors, remain responsible and accountable). Are these groups operating in accordance with the terms of reference your organisation established for the groups? Do they remain compliant with the Ofqual requirements in relation to Governance, especially given the updated guidance on the Criteria issued in March 2022? 

4, Cross check roles and responsibilities

Back in November 2021, in an article on hints and tips for Ofqual applicants, I suggested producing a roles responsibilities and accountability matrix. If you did this, I would recommend revisiting it. Have staff changed? Have roles changed? Have you recruited more staff? If yes, you will need to check that the roles and responsibilities within the matrix remain accurate, and that those roles and responsibilities are reflected across your policies. And don’t forget to ensure, if there have been changes, that you remain balanced across responsibilities and accountabilities, so that you don’t accidentally end up ‘marking your own homework’.

5, Review your forecasts

You may have expanded to new standards (qualifications), or apprentice (learner) volumes may have been above or below forecast. Take time to review your forecasts, as they will have an impact on staffing, the operation of your policies, and your financial stability. As part of this work capture the results of the review, and take account of any potential knock on to your risk management and contingency / continuity strategies and policies. Remember, the Ofqual Condition (A5.3) requires you to “regularly review its ongoing resource requirements and make appropriate changes to take into account the findings of each review”.

6, Review your policies

If you say you do something within a policy, have you done it? If Ofqual was to ask you for evidence of an activity stated within a policy, could you provide it? It is critical to ensure that your policies work in practice. If you have not done something stated in a policy, was there a reason for not doing it? Perhaps you did it differently to better reflect operational experience, or feedback, or a change to the assessment plan? If you have not done something stated within a policy, or if you have changed your approach, can you evidence how you checked to make sure that the omission or new approach did not have, or risk, an adverse effect or risk non-compliance? Have all the changes been captured and logged, and have the appropriate communications to customers and stakeholders been issued?

7, Lessons Learnt

Have you captured feedback from apprentices, employers, training providers and stakeholders? Have you learnt lessons from the operation of any of your policies in practice, such as dealing with complaints, appeals or malpractice? If yes, how have you acted upon the feedback and lessons learnt, and captured / recorded any resultant decisions or actions?

8, Check or test your staff knowledge

Ofqual Conditions are designed to be lived and breathed and not just a set of documents that sit on the shelf. This means that all staff in your organisation should understand the Conditions and how they apply to your organisation, and their role within your organisation. Have you checked to make sure your staff understand Ofqual and how to embed Ofqual compliance across everything they do? 

9, Don’t leave it to one person to do it on their own

Robust preparation for the annual statement of compliance should not be left to one person.  Work collaboratively with staff, and related subcommittees across your organisation to question and challenge the application of your policies, systems and procedures.  Remember, the governing body must remain responsible and accountable, so they must be kept informed so that they are able to agree and sign the annual statement of compliance. Talk with other EpAOs. The EpAO network is fabulous, people are honest and helpful, so don’t be afraid to talk and share.

10, Have a look at historical regulatory actions and interventions

I originally starting looking at the regulatory actions and interventions reports because I was nosy, but I soon realised that reading these made me understand more about how Ofqual operate and to spot key themes or risk areas. This in turn has helped when I have been working with EpAOs to review and update policies and procedures.

I hope this provides a little help for EpAOs carrying out activities to complete their annual statement of Compliance. My historical support articles can be found here.

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