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Top tips for maintaining awarding organisation compliance

I am going to share with you my top 3 tips for maintaining Awarding Organisation (AO) compliance, which should help you to keep your risk levels low.

Assuming that you are already an approved centre, ensure that you:

1. Have a qualified and experienced IQA team that clearly documents their IQA activities, ensuring these are consistent with AO requirements and maintains the quality and consistency of assessment.

  • Generally Low risk centres are low risk because they have a strong and efficient IQA team, that support their assessors, quality assures assessment decisions at all stages of the assessment process (formatively and summatively) and manages the delivery of their qualifications. There should be an IQA strategy in place that documents how this process will be conducted, including how the assessment team is risk rated and the level of sampling that is expected. This might sound obvious, but please ensure the IQA strategy is actually being followed. I have read some very good IQA strategies over my time as an EQA, but you would be surprised how many centres simply do not follow their own strategy.
  • The three main areas of IQA that centres show non-compliance in are as follows:
    • End loading their sampling and not actually planning their IQA requirements;
    • Little or no standardisation of assessment decisions (a general team meeting does not count as standardisation);
    • The IQA team is not given enough time to conduct their duties effectively.

This could lead to poor assessment practice, which will mean that the AO assessment strategy is not met, assessors are not being supported sufficiently and ultimately learners will be disadvantaged.

2. Give the assessment and IQA team sufficient time, resources and authority to perform their roles and responsibilities effectively.

  • Building on the last point from the previous tip, it might not be the IQAs fault if their sampling is end loaded or they are not standardising assessment decisions. The most common reason for this is they are simply not given enough time to carry out their IQA duties in line with AO and national guidelines. A low risk centre will generally have IQAs in place that just concentrate on the IQA role and nothing else. If an IQA also has a full timetable of tutoring and assessment and they are also expected to carry out IQA of other tutors/assessors, then invariably they will struggle to meet the IQA requirements of their AO.
  • IQA is the foundation of any low risk centre, so if this role is given the time that is required to meet your AO requirements and you have at least one qualified and experienced IQA in place, then you have every chance of being a low risk centre.
  • This also applies to your tutors and assessors, so please ensure they are given the necessary time and resources to carry out their roles effectively, as this will only benefit your centre in the long run.
  • A common area of non-compliance is with new and inexperienced assessors*. Centres will not induct them properly into their company or to their AO and the qualifications they will be assessing. They will then give them large caseloads of learners that they cannot cope with and then wonder why they constantly have a high turnover of staff and are consistently not meeting their achievement targets.

It is essential that with this scenario, the assessors are inducted properly and conduct shadowing of experienced/low risk assessors and are given a small caseload of learners to learn the role of the assessor and build their confidence. As their confidence and competence grows then their caseloads can increase and you will retain a consistent and happy workforce.

*If the assessor is un-qualified and is working towards their assessor qualification, then they should be allocated a mentor who is an experienced and qualified assessor who must countersign any assessment decisions they make, until such time that they are fully qualified. However, please check with your AO and what their requirements are for countersigning arrangements.

Have a robust malpractice and maladministration policy and this is fully understood and adhered to by your staff.

  • Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) are responsible for maintaining standards, improving confidence and distributing information about qualifications and examinations. They regulate vocational qualifications in England and in Northern Ireland and they recognise AOs to award qualifications. Each AO is accountable for the quality and standards of it qualifications, the efficiency with which it works and have to show on going compliance with Ofqual’s General Conditions of Recognition (GCOR).
  • One of the main conditions contained within the GCOR is A8 Malpractice and maladministration. As part of this condition, AO’s must take all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence of malpractice and maladministration in the development, delivery and award of qualifications which it makes available or proposes to make available (A8.1 Preventing malpractice and maladministration). To comply with condition A8, they have to have their own policy for malpractice and maladministration, but also A8.4 requires them to keep under review the arrangements put in place by a centre for preventing and investigating malpractice and maladministration. Therefore it is essential that you have in place a robust policy that your staff are fully aware of and understand and it is good practice to conduct some training on preventing and investigating malpractice and maladministration.
  • To help you in this area, Criteria A8.5 states the following ‘An awarding organisation must, following a request from such a Centre, provide guidance to the Centre as to how best to prevent, investigate, and deal with malpractice and maladministration’. Therefore as part of this criteria an AO may provide training that your staff can attend or alternatively, they may provide a written guidance document that can be distributed or discussed at a standardisation meeting, so I would recommend that you contact your AO for what they offer.
  • Above all, the most important advice I could give you is to ensure that if you do identify an internal incident of malpractice and/or maladministration that you communicate fully with your AO about what you have uncovered and the steps you have put in place to investigate it. Your AO should then be able to give you further guidance and decide the next course of action.

Please note – there are many other areas of possible non-compliance, however in my experience the areas I have mentioned in this article are among the most common.

Carl Bromilow is an educational consultant who offers consultancy and staff training services to training providers and awarding organisations – he can be contacted via his website:

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