Ofqual Recognition… what does this mean?
Earlier this year SIAS achieved Ofqual approval and recognition with no conditions after a rigorous application process. The achievement, well ahead of the deadline, made SIAS, at the time, one of the only Ofqual approved end-point assessment organisations (EPAO) for many of the key technical science and engineering apprenticeship standards. We caught up with Dan Russell, Head of Quality and Business Improvement to hear more about what this means.
Thanks for joining us Dan and congratulations again on the fantastic achievement. Can you start by telling us why SIAS had to go through the process of applying to be Ofqual recognised?
“Being Ofqual recognised is something that every end-point assessment organisation has to do. We’re effectively all transitioning from having different external quality assurance organisations to one external quality assurance organisation, which is Ofqual.
“It was brought about to help strive for better quality and to bring apprenticeships in line with other qualifications. And, as all of our standards are in phase one of the transition it was really important to us that we did this and we did it early.”
What did SIAS have to do to achieve the Ofqual recognition?
“First of all we had to complete an application in which we had to demonstrate that we are meeting Ofqual’s criteria for recognition. We then had to supply supporting evidence, so things like policies, processes, flow charts – everything that proves that you are doing what you say you’re doing. To enable us to do that, we had to breakdown the criteria for recognition, then we had to do a deep dive into our ways of working, our processes, our policies and compare them against the criteria.
“The Ofqual recognition has a lot more criteria to follow than the previous requirements, so there was a lot to review. That gave us a fantastic opportunity for us to do some additional development work and we were able to look at what we do and how we do it. This led to us streamlining our ways of working and improving quality, making improvements for customers, enhancing everything that what we do and what our service offer is.”
So now you’re Ofqual recognised, what does this mean on a day-to-day basis?
“The biggest shift is that we’re now self-regulated. We are responsible for ensuring we are continually compliant with the Ofqual criteria and it is our responsibility to notify them if we realise that we haven’t followed something that we’re supposed to; whereas, in the previous world, we would be audited regularly and any issues picked up that way.
“So there’s a huge change in mindset for us and other EPAO’s and we’ve worked hard as an organisation to put in place what we need to, to make sure we can do that effectively. And, as I said before a benefit of that is that we’ve also been able to make improvements along the way to some of our processes.”
And, from your client’s perspective – what’s the benefit to them of you being Ofqual recognised?
“The key thing is that they will know that when they’re working with an Ofqual-accredited End Point Assessment Organisation that there’s consistency because we’re now all under the same external quality assurance organisation, so we have to all follow the same rules.
“I think it increases transparency. The conditions for recognition in the Ofqual criteria are published for everyone to see – so, if someone wanted to have a look at what we are supposed to be doing, they can see it, whereas, before, it wasn’t so clear-cut.
“I also think it will improve trust in the sector because the quality will improve because Ofqual are strict, they have high standards and more requirements, so that increases the trust clients have in the sector – they’re improving the quality. For our particular clients, they’ve got trust in what we’re doing and our ability to deliver. It means that we have gone through rigorous scrutiny from Ofqual and they have approved us and recognised that we do operate at the required level to be a recognised Ofqual Centre. That is a huge achievement for us. I think that should give our clients a lot of faith and trust in what we’re doing.”
And finally Dan, what do you think will happen next?
“There are still some things we and other EPAOs are working through and I think there will be changes going on over the next year or two reflecting that this is still all very new.
“Overall we’re firm believers that this is a great thing for our sector. It gives us a baseline for quality and compliance and what is required. Importantly it gives everyone faith in what we are doing and ultimately that’s got to be good for the apprentices. We’re very much ready for and looking forward to this new era!”