Regulatory strategy, malpractice, event notifications and whistleblowing event Q&A


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  • RO11 letter
  • Welsh Concordat
  • Thematic Review in the Tier 4 Market
  • Regulatory strategy, malpractice, event notifications and whistleblowing event Q&A

    1. 1. Regulatory strategy, malpractice, event notifications and whistleblowing event Q&A June 2014
    2. 2. AO Event – Q&A Contents Introduction 3 Regulatory strategy questions and answers 4 Malpractice 14 Event notifications 46 Whistleblowing 50
    3. 3. AO Event – Q&A Introduction In May and June 2014 we held events for awarding organisations covering malpractice, event notifications and whistleblowing, and including a speech by Chief Regulator, Glenys Stacey, on our future approach to regulation. We agreed to collate and share the questions and answers raised. In this document, where possible we have grouped the questions and answers into categories for ease of reference. If you have any further questions please email these to The questions and answers recorded in this document will be taken into account when we update our guidance on the General Conditions of Recognition (September 2013) ‘General Conditions’ and the related FAQs.
    4. 4. AO Event – Q&A Regulatory strategy questions and answers At each event we gave an update on our plans for regulating vocational qualifications and the next steps for this work including reviewing the Qualifications and Curriculum framework (QCF). Q1. Does Ofqual have a timescale for the next steps in the QCF review? A. The consultation on the QCF, due for publication in summer 2014, will set out a proposed timeline. We are interested in the views of awarding organisations on this timeline as we know there needs to be a manageable transition.
    5. 5. AO Event – Q&A Q2. Do these changes mean that there will be an immediate suspension of the Regulatory arrangements for the QCF? A. No, we need to make proposals for a smooth transition from the old system and our proposals will be set out in the consultation. Q3. Will the changes include a change to the title of the QCF? A. Yes, the new framework will be substantially different and therefore it will require a new name.
    6. 6. AO Event – Q&A Q4. If we are currently only recognised to offer QCF qualifications does this mean that we will have to apply for new recognition permissions? A. Our approach will be set out in the consultation; however we do not intend to make the process more difficult for awarding organisations than it needs to be. Q5. Will the new framework apply to both general qualifications and vocational qualifications? A. The intention is that a new descriptive framework will apply to all qualifications and that it will not specifically align to qualifications on the QCF.
    7. 7. AO Event – Q&A Q6. What do the changes mean for the National Qualifications Framework (NQF)? A. The consultation will address our plans for a descriptive framework for all qualifications. The focus of the consultation is the QCF but we do not plan to replace one set of rules with another. Q.7 We invested a lot in developing qualifications for the QCF framework. Does Ofqual anticipate the new framework involving the same costs and investment from awarding organisations? A. No, we don’t intend to replace one set of rules with another. What we know from our review of the QCF is that it hasn’t always delivered qualifications that are of a good standard. We are interested in the quality of qualifications and a slightly different set of rules will not necessarily deliver qualifications that are valid and fit for purpose.
    8. 8. AO Event – Q&A Q8. What should awarding organisations do about qualifications that they are currently developing to put on the QCF? A. The consultation will set out a proposed timeline for changes to the QCF. We recognise there needs to be time to plan and implement the changes and we want your views on the proposals. If you have qualifications that you need to develop in the near future, you should use the tools that are currently available. If you have qualifications in development which are not urgent you will need to make a business decision about when to submit these to us. Awarding organisations should continue to develop qualifications that meet the requirements of the General Conditions. Any changes we make will not prevent awarding organisations from continuing to offer unit-based/credit-based qualifications as long as these are good qualifications. We will set out the requirements for these types of qualifications to continue.
    9. 9. AO Event – Q&A We have spoken to larger awarding organisations about their qualification portfolio and if you have plans to submit large numbers of qualifications to us, please get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can plan our resources effectively. We are currently going through accreditation of new GCSEs and this will inevitably impact on the accreditation process. Q9. Does Ofqual have a timeline for making decisions on lifting the accreditation requirement for some qualifications? A. We are currently working through the changes and what this will look like in practice. We want to work through this quickly but cannot give an exact date for all the changes. We want to implement a number of changes in the regulatory strategy by the end of 2014 and you can expect to hear more from us over the summer. There are a large number of changes in the sector, for example with Tech Levels and Apprenticeships, and we will need to consider these when making decisions on accreditation.
    10. 10. AO Event – Q&A Q10. Last year we received a letter (RO11 ) about descriptions of qualifications and we haven’t heard anything further since then. Is this work no longer moving forward? Can Ofqual provide any more information on its intention to do more to celebrate good practice? A. We were keen to move forward with this work and have partially implemented the descriptions in the RITS systems so all qualifications submitted to us will now be in one of the descriptions. However, we found that implementing the groupings work was not straightforward as most qualifications were submitted under groups “qualifications taken primarily for personal growth and enjoyment” and “qualifications that are designed to meet the needs of a named employer or other organisation only” and this was not always the right description for those qualifications submitted. The work has been suspended temporarily and will be picked up through the changes to our regulatory strategy.
    11. 11. AO Event – Q&A Q11. Can Ofqual provide any more information on its intention to do more to celebrate good practice? A. As a regulator we often think about sanctions and have looked less at celebrating good practice in awarding organisations. Our research suggests that endorsement of an awarding organisation’s approach can be a very powerful incentive and we will look at using this in our new regulatory approach.
    12. 12. AO Event – Q&A Q12. We would dispute the statement that stakeholders lack trust in “most” vocational qualifications. As awarding organisations we genuinely want our qualifications to be valid and of a high standard. Would Ofqual dispute this? A. We don’t dispute that there are some vocational qualifications currently available that are valued by employers and fit for purpose. However, we cannot be sure of this and it is not currently easy to identify which qualifications are fit for purpose. We do not have the evidence to give assurance to stakeholders about the quality of vocational qualifications and this is something we need to be able to give.
    13. 13. AO Event – Q&A Q13. How does the Welsh Government affect Ofqual’s proposals? A. We are engaging with the Welsh Government about our proposals and hope that they will support our intentions. Qualifications Wales is being set up and we do not yet know what this will look like; however we are engaging with them about our approach. As a devolved administration they will make their own decisions. We have signed a concordat with the Welsh Government setting out how we will work with them. Q14. In relation to RITS, why do qualifications we have withdrawn still appear? Can they be removed? A. No, in the current RITS system you cannot remove qualifications from the system. If an awarding organisation intends to withdraw a qualification they enter the operational end date and the certification end date on RITS. Once the operational end date has passed the status of the qualification is updated on the RITS system. Qualifications are not deleted from the system but it is clear that the qualification is no longer operational.
    14. 14. AO Event – Q&A Malpractice The malpractice session focused on the recent malpractice thematic review. We invited questions before the event and answered some of these on the day as well as taking additional questions at the end of the session. We are continuing to look at this area through the next steps of the malpractice thematic review work and close and continuous monitoring. We will communicate more about this work as it progresses. Q15. What does Ofqual expect from awarding organisations to demonstrate that malpractice procedures are embedded within their operational systems? A. The Guidance to the General Conditions on A8 provides examples of “positive indicators” that suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply with the condition. We expect this to be reflected in awarding organisations’ operational systems.
    15. 15. AO Event – Q&A Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply The awarding organisation:  has ways of working that reduce the risk and incidents of malpractice or maladministration occurring;  makes sure that individuals involved in the development, delivery and award of its qualifications understand and routinely follow these ways of working;  takes all reasonable steps to ensure that current (and former) staff and contractors do not provide information about its qualifications which is inaccurate or misleading;  has policies, practices and/or procedures that reduce the risk of malpractice and maladministration, covering, among other things:
    16. 16. AO Event – Q&A  plagiarism, collusion, tampering, breach of confidentiality of assessment materials;  incidents that occur outside of England or Northern Ireland (if it operates elsewhere);  knows what to do if evidence of malpractice or maladministration comes to light, whether in the organisation itself or within a third party involved with the design, delivery or award of a qualification;  acts quickly when it has evidence of malpractice or maladministration;  investigates promptly any allegations for which there are reasonable grounds that current (or former) staff or contractors have provided inaccurate or misleading information to Centres or Teachers about its qualifications and, if the awarding organisation establishes that Teachers have been misinformed, takes reasonable steps to correct any misunderstandings with the Centres or Teachers that are affected;
    17. 17. AO Event – Q&A  captures, logs and addresses all suspicions and evidence of malpractice;  uses and regularly reviews a standardised investigations policy and approach that sets out:  who investigates concerns about malpractice or maladministration;  how the investigation is undertaken;  how whistleblowers will be treated, and in such a way that individuals will not be prejudiced;  when and how interested parties will be notified lawfully;  how any interviews should be conducted;  how facts will be gathered and evidence found, collated and stored;  how documentary evidence will be verified;  how confidentiality of investigation materials is assured;
    18. 18. AO Event – Q&A  how the records of its investigations will be presented and their accuracy assured;  how and when any visits to Centres will be announced and undertaken;  which principles will be followed when it undertakes an investigation with other bodies;  has on record:  clear terms of reference for the investigations that it has undertaken;  a log of all allegations, including those that were not investigated, that it can cross-reference if new information is provided.
    19. 19. AO Event – Q&A Q16. What steps does Ofqual expect awarding organisations to take to identify possible conflicts of interest within centres? A. Our definition of a conflict of interest is given in General Condition A4.1. Turning this into a question would be a starting point for awarding organisations. So, ‘Do any organisations/individuals involved in the design, delivery or awarding of an awarding organisation’s qualifications have an interest in any activity that could lead it/them to act contrary to the General Conditions?’ It is important to identify any potential or actual conflicts of interest and to consider what as an awarding organisation you do to prevent or mitigate any adverse effect.
    20. 20. AO Event – Q&A Definition of conflict of interest A4.1 For the purposes of this condition, a conflict of interest exists in relation to an awarding organisation where – (a) its interests in any activity undertaken by it, on its behalf, or by a member of its Group have the potential to lead it to act contrary to its interests in the development, delivery and award of qualifications in accordance with its Conditions of Recognition, (b) a person who is connected to the development, delivery or award of qualifications by the awarding organisation has interests in any other activity which have the potential to lead that person to act contrary to his or her interests in that development, delivery or award in accordance with the awarding organisation’s Conditions of Recognition, or (c) an informed and reasonable observer would conclude that either of those situations was the case.
    21. 21. AO Event – Q&A Q17. How does Ofqual envisage malpractice and maladministration being addressed within the development of qualifications? A. This will be influenced by the qualification type, but there are some general questions that awarding organisations could ask:  Who is involved in developing the qualification – is there a potential conflict of interest?  Plagiarism – is the qualification specification clear on this aspect?  In qualifications that use internal assessment, are the arrangements for moderation/verification clear and effective? Is the right expertise available?  In relation to the assessment methodology:
    22. 22. AO Event – Q&A  Is it a method that the awarding organisation is used to or is it a new departure requiring additional attention?  Is it valid for the content?  If allowing centre devised assessments, does the awarding organisation’s process for approval ensure this?  How will security of assessment be ensured? Q18. How does Ofqual monitor compliance with the requirement to inform other awarding organisations about malpractice? A. It is an awarding organisation’s responsibility to advise other awarding organisations of incidents of malpractice/maladministration. We would generally accept an awarding organisation’s statement it had done this, without specific further monitoring. An awarding organisation will nevertheless need to have evidence that it has done this, either in connection with the event or at a later date, if asked by the Regulator.
    23. 23. AO Event – Q&A Q19. How does Ofqual monitor awarding organisations that approve a centre that has had its approval removed by a different awarding organisation? A. An awarding organisation is permitted to approve a centre that has had its approval removed by another awarding organisation. We would expect the approving awarding organisation to do this in an informed way, taking account of what the other awarding organisation has done and considering any evidence available. The approving awarding organisation will need to identify any potential risks and manage them, as required by General Condition A6.
    24. 24. AO Event – Q&A Q20. When deciding which awarding organisations to inform of an incidence of malpractice/maladministration, is it enough to search RITS for those awarding organisations offering similar qualifications or would Ofqual expect an awarding organisation to do more research? A. Referring to RITS is one step that we would expect an awarding organisation to take in deciding which awarding organisations to inform; another may be looking at the centre’s website to discover any links to other awarding organisations. It is for an awarding organisation to develop its own procedures and if we requested it, we would expect to see evidence that the awarding organisation has done this.
    25. 25. AO Event – Q&A Q21. What are Ofqual’s expectations on identifying other awarding organisations who may need to be informed of an incidence of malpractice/maladministration? A. The condition requires an awarding organisation to inform centres or other awarding organisations where it has “cause to believe” an occurrence of malpractice/maladministration may affect them. This will be influenced by the nature of the event. For example, if it relates to an identified systemic problem with the management of internal quality assurance at a centre, it would seem reasonable to have “cause to believe” that any other awarding organisation operating at that centre may be affected. There may be other instances where the effect is limited to certain awarding organisations, for example, operating with certain assessment methodologies or qualifications. It is a judgement for the ‘informing’ awarding organisation to make based on consideration of the facts of the event.
    26. 26. AO Event – Q&A Q22. If an awarding organisation finds that an individual has been involved in malpractice/maladministration can they legally inform other awarding organisations of the name of such an individual? If that individual transfers to another centre, can the awarding organisation make the new centre aware of the previous malpractice/maladministration of the individual without any legal issues arising? A. The statutory guidance on A8 gives examples of positive indicators that would suggest that an awarding organisation is likely to comply. One is “when and how interested parties will be notified lawfully.” It is the awarding organisation’s responsibility to determine “lawfully” given the nature of the event. The awarding organisation will need to consider each situation separately. This will include the nature of the malpractice or maladministration; how involved the individual was; and from your knowledge of the events, whether you consider that the individual may follow the same malpractice at another centre or awarding organisation.
    27. 27. AO Event – Q&A For instance, you may consider it is more likely to occur at another centre when your investigation has found that the malpractice was a deliberate action for financial advantage. Awarding organisations will want take their own advice about what information is forwarded, and to ensure as far as possible that information passed on is factual. During the malpractice investigation you may also consider it useful to notify individuals that you may be obliged to pass information to other centres or awarding organisations.
    28. 28. AO Event – Q&A Q23. Is verbally informing another awarding organisation of malpractice/maladministration sufficient action, or do Ofqual expect there to be a written communication on file to evidence compliance with General Condition A8.7b? A. We do not specify how one awarding organisation should inform another. We would expect some evidence to be available that it had been done. Where information is passed on verbally, it is recommended that you keep a record of who you spoke to, what information was passed on and when. You will also want to ensure your communication is clear and unambiguous.
    29. 29. AO Event – Q&A Q24. General Condition (A8.7) requires an awarding organisation to inform other awarding organisations that may be affected by an occurrence of malpractice/maladministration. Should an awarding organisation only do this once the case is proved by its own procedures? A. If an awarding organisation has knowledge, or on the evidence available, strongly suspects, that there has been an occurrence of malpractice/maladministration, then it should consider giving early notification to other awarding organisations, who it has cause to believe may be affected by the malpractice/maladministration, that there is an ongoing investigation. This is a statement of fact and cannot be defamatory. The statement can then be updated when the investigation has concluded whether the malpractice/maladministration has been proved (or not).
    30. 30. AO Event – Q&A Q25. When advising other awarding organisations, how much detail needs to be provided about the incidence of malpractice/maladministration? Is it sufficient to state only that malpractice has been proved in a specific centre? A. It is not possible to give definitive advice that will cover all eventualities, but the Guidance to the General Conditions states that interested parties should be notified lawfully and the individual circumstances would have to be considered in reaching a judgement on this. We would not specify the level of detail required in any notification to other awarding organisations but it should be factual. You may wish to consider what method of communication you use to ensure that you provide sufficient information to the other awarding organisation to allow them to take their own view of the situation.
    31. 31. AO Event – Q&A Q26. At a previous event on malpractice we were advised that we should only inform other awarding organisations once malpractice/maladministration had been proved. Is Ofqual changing its position? A. No. The General Conditions state that an awarding organisation should inform other awarding organisations who it has cause to believe may be affected by malpractice or maladministration and this hasn’t changed. All situations are different so an awarding organisation will need to use its professional judgement to decide if there is enough evidence to suggest that there has been an occurrence of malpractice/maladministration that may affect other awarding organisations. It would be good practice to give early notification to other awarding organisations that may be affected if malpractice/maladministration is proved so that they are aware of the investigation at an early stage and can take appropriate action themselves.
    32. 32. AO Event – Q&A We know that the definition of ”cause to believe” has raised some questions at the events and we will take this into account when looking at any further guidance on General Condition A8. Q27. Are awarding organisations opening themselves up to legal challenge of libel or defamation from centres if we inform other awarding organisations without proof of malpractice or maladministration? We can’t say we have “cause to believe” if we don’t have the evidence. A. No, we would not expect an awarding organisation to inform other awarding organisations that there has definitely been malpractice/maladministration at a centre whilst an investigation is ongoing. An awarding organisation should inform other awarding organisations that it has cause to believe may be affected, that there is an ongoing investigation. If this is a statement of fact it will not be defamatory.
    33. 33. AO Event – Q&A Once an investigation is completed, you should inform those awarding organisations of the outcome, including whether the malpractice/maladministration was substantiated. Q28. Does Ofqual expect an awarding organisation to inform other agencies such as the police, UKBA and the funding agencies of malpractice/maladministration? If so, does Ofqual have links with these agencies that they can use to support awarding organisations in doing this? A. General Condition A8 only requires awarding organisations to notify centres and/or other awarding organisations that may be affected. However, there may be instances where there is a legal requirement on an awarding organisation to inform other agencies, for example identification of serious fraud.
    34. 34. AO Event – Q&A Additionally, the Guidance to the General Conditions states that interested parties should be notified “lawfully” − the individual circumstances would have to be considered in reaching a judgement on this. If you want to speak with other agencies but have no contact details, get in touch the Regulatory Relationships team at who will try to help.
    35. 35. AO Event – Q&A Q29. Do awarding organisations only need to report malpractice/maladministration to the Regulator if there is an adverse effect? A. We expect an awarding organisation to notify us once any adverse effect or any potentially adverse effect is identified. If the awarding organisation does not think that that there is an adverse effect, it should still handle the matter appropriately in accordance with its malpractice and maladministration processes.
    36. 36. AO Event – Q&A Q30. In the malpractice thematic review what did you find that was positive in the handling of malpractice/maladministration cases by awarding organisations? A. The awarding organisations involved in the sample for the thematic review showed that there was a desire amongst awarding organisations to deal with malpractice effectively and to prevent it happening in future. Investigation of alleged malpractice was carried out by the awarding organisation rather than the centre. The awarding organisations sampled had some good internal verification and external verification processes to deal with the prevention and detection of malpractice in centres. There was some evidence in the sample of assessment methodologies which mitigate the risk of malpractice occurring at centre level, that is, all externally marked by the awarding organisation. We recognise that this assessment model is not appropriate for all awarding organisations or qualification types.
    37. 37. AO Event – Q&A We have seen these processes on paper but we need to do more work to get evidence about how these work in practice. Q31. How will Ofqual decide which awarding organisations to include in the sample for phase 2 of the malpractice thematic review? A. This will be done in consultation with awarding organisations and will depend on the qualifications the awarding organisation offers and its centres. The further work around malpractice and maladministration will form part of our ongoing risk- based monitoring programme. Awarding organisations who are included in this, will be told if malpractice/maladministration is to be included in the monitoring activity for them. Q32. Are any awarding organisations seeking to recover costs from centres for malpractice and maladministration? A. We are not aware of this happening.
    38. 38. AO Event – Q&A Q33. I am particularly interested in the views of Ofqual about the following scenario: A training provider goes into administration due to loss of public funding as a result of a poor Ofsted audit. The place closes, with redundancies and so on, and the learners still on programmes are caught in the middle. The awarding organisation attempts to deal with the administrators who inform them that they are not interested in any regulatory requirements, only any creditors. Records are lost or destroyed. Where does the fault or responsibility lie here in terms of maladministration? Regardless of the obligations Ofqual require of awarding organisations in this arena, there is no common ground between any of the parties and the administrators’ obligations.
    39. 39. AO Event – Q&A A. The Conditions require that “In the event that the Centre withdraws from its role in delivering a qualification, the awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to protect the interests of Learners”. This would include the situation where a training provider goes into administration. In these circumstances we would expect an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to protect the learners. In these circumstances the steps an awarding organisation can take will depend on the individual circumstances and what records are available. We also expect awarding organisations to take all reasonable steps to identify the risk of the occurrence of any incident which could have an adverse effect, for example, a training provider going into administration, and where it cannot be prevented, mitigate that adverse effect as far as possible as required by General Condition A6. If an awarding organisation is in this situation and requires any advice they should email .
    40. 40. AO Event – Q&A Q34. What are the key malpractice preventive measures Ofqual have identified during the thematic review? A. The presentation reflected the main areas that awarding organisations saw as key to preventing malpractice. These included centre approval arrangements, management of centre relationships and the role of external quality assurance. Q35. Does Ofqual now require awarding organisations to risk-rate centres, or is this seen as good (but not essential) practice? A. There is no specific requirement to risk-rate centres. It was seen by some awarding organisations as one way of helping to prevent malpractice/maladministration – which is a requirement under General Condition A8.
    41. 41. AO Event – Q&A Q36. Is risk-rating centres to inform monitoring, an acceptable ‘prevention’ method for malpractice or maladministration? A. Risk-rating a centre can be seen as a helpful step in detecting and preventing malpractice/maladministration, but in isolation is not enough to constitute an acceptable method for preventing it. Risk-rating centres may be part of a wider quality assurance programme. Q37. I was interested to know more about Ofqual’s intended next steps based upon the fact that you were not satisfied with your findings from the thematic review. A. We will be undertaking further work on malpractice and maladministration – particularly around how awarding organisations’ processes and procedures are put into practice. This will form part of our ongoing monitoring programme.
    42. 42. AO Event – Q&A Q38. Why has Ofqual decided not to publish a full thematic review report at this time? We know that Ofqual wants to conduct further work in this area but the need to further explore malpractice/maladministration during ongoing monitoring activity could have been reflected in a full report. A. The work to date has not produced the evidence we are looking for to be able to communicate definitive findings to awarding organisations. However, some very useful information has been collected on awarding organisations’ approaches to meeting the requirements of General Condition A8. We felt that an event together with the malpractice and maladministration thematic review discussion paper was a more interactive way of involving awarding organisations in the important discussion on prevention of malpractice/maladministration. We will communicate the outcomes of the further work that we do in this area.
    43. 43. AO Event – Q&A Q39. Having gone through the malpractice and maladministration thematic review discussion paper in detail I am wondering how many small awarding organisations were included in the review, as the main comments seem to be around large organisations dealing with several Centres. Knowing this might help my understanding of the points made. A. There was a random sample of 50 awarding organisations spread across all sizes, based on certification numbers. Small awarding organisations were taken as having less than 10,000 certificates per annum and there were 23 in the sample.
    44. 44. AO Event – Q&A Q40. Apart from financial gain what other drivers for malpractice have Ofqual identified following the thematic review in the Tier 4 Market ? Is it realistic to attempt to monitor all of these? A. The driver for malpractice/maladministration is invariably financial, either directly or indirectly by gaining some form of commercial advantage. Malpractice was shown to be mainly linked to the assessment process, for example falsifying assessment records. This highlighted the importance of the awarding organisations’ quality assurance systems in monitoring centres and in particular their internal quality assurance.
    45. 45. AO Event – Q&A Q41. Could we receive feedback from Ofqual and other awarding organisations on what they deem to be an effective method of centre monitoring and perhaps include information on how the process of monitoring has changed as a result of an event notification? A. This will depend on the awarding organisations’ requirements of the centre. The General Conditions (C1/C2) require an awarding organisation to have a written, enforceable agreement with any third party that is involved in any part of the design, delivery or awarding of an awarding organisation’s qualifications. It is required that these arrangements are monitored (C1.1b). What form this takes is for the awarding organisation to decide based on the individual circumstances. It could well be that an awarding organisation increases the level of monitoring if they have experience of an adverse effect occurring at a centre.
    46. 46. AO Event – Q&A Event notifications Q42. Do awarding organisations who submit a number of event notifications run the risk of being seen by Ofqual as a higher risk? A. It will depend on the circumstances of the event notification. If the awarding organisation is managing the events in compliance with the General Conditions, addressing the issue and reviewing its processes to make improvements, we would not view that awarding organisation as higher risk. In malpractice and maladministration cases, this would be looking at ways of improving the prevention of malpractice and maladministration in the future. If the events are similar in nature or a number that could indicate that the awarding organisation is not taking a ‘lessons learned’ approach to reviewing its processes and systems, then an awarding organisation could be classified as higher risk.
    47. 47. AO Event – Q&A The number of event notifications may reflect a misunderstanding on the part of the awarding organisation about what should be reported. We would discuss with the awarding organisation if we felt this was the case. If the situation continued, we might have concerns about the awarding organisation’s understanding of the General Conditions. Q43. The event notification slides refer to 14 categories of event notifications. Is there an intention to share these categories with awarding organisations? A. We have shared the slides from the events with the awarding organisations who attended, which include the current categories. All event notifications are logged against one of these categories. These may be revised if we discover a need for different categories.
    48. 48. AO Event – Q&A Q44. Are you intending to share awarding organisations’ risk ratings with them? A. At the moment we do not give awarding organisation risk ratings. We have been developing our use of data and have been talking to a small group of awarding organisations to improve our understanding and the type of data we collect. Once we have done this we will develop how we apply risk ratings, and we will then share this information with awarding organisations. Q45. What types of adverse effect have been reported to Ofqual so far? A. The slides from the event show the volume and type of actual/potential adverse effect that awarding organisations have reported.
    49. 49. AO Event – Q&A Q46. Ofqual has acknowledged that many awarding organisations don’t know when they should notify Ofqual of a malpractice (adverse effect). What are Ofqual’s plans to ensure that all awarding organisations (not just those here on the workshop) are aware of exactly how, what, when and why something should be notified to Ofqual? A. The session on event notifications at the event was designed to advise awarding organisations about what to report and when. A video of the presentation, the slides and the scenarios will be made available to all awarding organisations, including those unable to attend. We are also reviewing and revising both statutory and non-statutory guidance. We will include more on what information we expect to receive and we will refresh the positive and negative indicators in the statutory guidance. We are also considering introducing guidance on severity categorisation.
    50. 50. AO Event – Q&A Whistleblowing Q47. We make our whistleblowing policy available on our website. We have not had any specific instances where the use of the policy has been misused. However, does Ofqual have experience of Learners using the whistleblowing policy inappropriately to cause trouble? A. There have been occasions where a whistleblower disclosure has not been substantiated and has been found to be malicious. Within our policy we do make a distinction between employment disputes, complaints and whistleblowing allegations in an effort to deter this from happening, but we have to accept it can and does happen.
    51. 51. AO Event – Q&A Q48. Does Ofqual require an awarding organisation to have a separate whistleblower policy in place and published on the awarding organisation website or is this seen as being good (but not essential) practice? A. We do not require awarding organisations explicitly to have a whistleblowing policy in place. However, we consider this as implicit within General Condition A8, where we require awarding organisations to take reasonable steps to prevent and, where identified, investigate occurrences of malpractice. A valid whistleblower disclosure will be about a wrongdoing or malpractice.
    52. 52. AO Event – Q&A Q49. Can you advise what information Ofqual provides to whistleblowers when responding to their allegations? A. The response we send to the whistleblower will be tailored to the circumstances of the case. However, the information we send is limited and does not go into the details of the investigation and the action taken. It will set out the details of the allegation and give a short description of the outcome. We refrain from giving full details for confidentiality and legal reasons. Q50. If Ofqual receives an anonymous allegation, does it class this as a whistleblower disclosure, a complaint or information from a third party? A. This is a difficult situation but if the allegation suggests that the person works at the centre or did work at the centre, we would usually treat them as a whistleblower.
    53. 53. AO Event – Q&A However, as the allegation is anonymous we cannot ask for further information and therefore it will be judged only on the basis of the information included in the allegation. In these circumstances we would share the allegation but the investigation we can carry out is limited. The allegation is still useful intelligence about a centre and can help build a picture with other information about the centre concerned.