Ofqual chief has three questions for awarding organisations as part of crackdown

Ofqual’s chief regulator has tasked awarding organisations with answering three questions as part of the watchdog’s work on ensuring “public confidence” in qualifications.

Addressing the first day of the Federation of Awarding Bodies’ annual conference, Sally Collier said she wanted AOs to “be in the best shape you can be” and it was “the time for you to take stock of your capacity and capability”.

In order to ensure this, she posed three questions that she said were at the top of the watchdog’s mind:

  1. Do you have enough assessment expertise in your organisation – people who really know how to design, develop, deliver and review qualifications? And if you don’t employ such people, how can you access them on a sustainable basis?
  2. Is your technology, and your technology expertise, up to the challenge of facing the increased risk posed by cyber threats and keeping your data safe?
  3. If you are a responsible officer, do you know what is expected of you, in terms of fulfilling your obligations as the key accountable person?

Reaction at the conference on whether Collier’s questions were helpful was mixed.

Louise Bangham, the quality assurance manager from Safety Training Awards, told FE Week she was “on the fence”, saying the expertise question was important as “we all have to have the competence for the assessments to make sure they are all fit for purpose”.

But the technology expertise “depended on the organisation,” as some will bring in contractors to get their systems into place.

“It is an important question, but I don’t know if it’s fitting for AOs.”

Sarah Edmonds, a former FAB board member who has just stepped down from being a responsible officer at Active IQ, said she “absolutely” thought the questions were helpful.

This was because the questions responsible officers have to answer are much more “focused” and “clearly articulated” than in the past, when AOs had to discern what regulators meant by their questions and whether there were any “hidden messages”.

She also agreed the technology question would be helpful, as “we’re all mindful of technology, its advances and what’s possible and what is not”.

However, she added: “You have such a wide variety of awarding organisations where many people wear many hats and it is sometimes a challenge to them with the sheer heft of the role.”

Collier also used her speech to criticise the “rather superficial media coverage” of a recommendation by the independent commission on exam malpractice around banning watches in exams.

She said many of the commission’s proposals were “far more important” and will have implications for qualifications.

This, and much of her speech, was focused on Ofqual’s attempts to crack down on qualification malpractice.

Just this week, Ofqual launched a consultation on introducing fixed penalty notices and rebukes for organisations found to be flouting official regulations.

And in February, Ofqual announced it would start auditing awarding organisations’ on the “control” they have over their individual providers after concerns were raised over AOs only moderating assessments after results had been issued – what is known as a direct claims status.

Photos by Osborne Photography.

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