External quality assurance must take place on behalf of an awarding organisation (AO) in an accredited centre. This is to ensure the learners who have been registered with them have received a quality service, and that the assessment decisions are valid and reliable.
EQA also seeks to ensure that assessment and internal quality assurance activities have been conducted in a consistent, safe and fair manner.
If you deliver and assess qualifications which are certificated via an AO, an external quality assurer (EQA) will visit or carry out a remote verification to sample learners' work and assessment records.
External quality assurers will monitor a centre's processes and practices to ensure they meet all awarding organisation, qualification and regulatory requirements. However, the EQA role is not just about ensuring compliance, it's also about supporting centre staff, and giving advice and guidance to help them improve.
It's important to keep in touch throughout the year with your EQA and build up a good working relationship with them. Don't wait to ask any questions or to inform them of any changes until they visit, as problems could occur in the meantime.
An EQA should be up to date with the qualification content and the requirements for delivery, assessment and IQA, as well as any relevant regulations. It’s also a good thing if the EQA is currently delivering and assessing the qualification themselves, so they can appreciate things from both sides.
Learners, when they successfully complete a qualification, will receive a certificate with the awarding organisation’s name on, as well as the centre name. Therefore, the EQA must ensure everything is in order, or their reputation, as well as the centre’s, could be brought into disrepute.
Ofqual approves and regulates awarding organisations (AOs). AOs need to comply with their General Conditions of Recognition (updated 2015). This document sets out certain conditions which AOs must ensure their centres adhere to. Examples include managing conflicts of interest, identifying and managing risk and dealing with malpractice. Unfortunately, practice does differ between EQAs and AOs, however, at least this document goes some way to ensuring certain standards are maintained. If you work with several AOs, you may wonder why some differ and why they don’t all standardise their practice when they expect centre staff to.
Risk ratings, see the table, are often used when an EQA completes their report and sanctions can be recommended if something is wrong. However, if you are given an action point that you do not feel is right, ask your EQA ‘where does it say that I have to do that?’ If it’s not written down in the qualification specification or relevant regulatory documents, it can’t be enforced. It can however be added to the report as an improvement point.
An EQA can only recommend a sanction if things are not right, it’s the AO that will have the final say.
As an external quality assurer only samples activities, there is the possibility some aspects might be missed, however, EQAs are very thorough and often get a 'sense' of what is not right.
There are risks involved and these should be considered when planning an EQA sampling strategy. For example, a high turnover of staff or certificates claimed in short periods of time.
An external quality assurer (EQA) should look out for:
(in alphabetical order)
(in alphabetical order)
Please remember, an EQA is there to help and support you. Never be afraid of asking them anything, either during their visit, or by getting in touch with them between visits.
If you wish to find out more about the EQAs role, you can take the unit: Understanding the principles and practices of externally assuring the quality of assessment. This is a knowledge based unit for anyone who wishes to know about the theory of external quality assurance. You do not need to carry out any external quality assurance activities to achieve this unit.
EQA resources available for immediate download
Checklist to help centres prepare for an EQA visit (£1.50)
4 pages of information regarding an EQA visit, along with a checklist of what to prepare in advance of the visit.
Information Leaflet - Key Concepts and Principles of External Quality Assurance (£1.50)
6 pages covering: •Why should EQA take place? •The functions of EQA • Working for an awarding organisation • EQA cycle • Key concepts of EQA • EQA rationale • Key principles of EQA • Role & responsibilities of an EQA • Regulations, Policies and Procedures • Reading list • Website list
Information Leaflet - Planning EQA activities (£1.50)
7 pages covering: • Aspects to consider when planning • EQA strategy • Sample plans • Managing risk • Planning EQA activities • Resources • Technology • Reading list • Website list
Information Leaflet - Carrying out EQA activities, making decisions and giving feedback (£1.50)
8 pages covering: • EQA activities • Issues affecting visits • Making a decision: observing practice, sampling assessed work, remote sampling • Risks • Malpractice • Agreeing action and improvement points • Feedback • Different feedback methods • Giving feedback • Reading list • Website list
Information Leaflet - EQA records (£1.50)
3 pages covering: • Record keeping • Examples of EQA records • Reasons for keeping EQA records • Data Protection • Confidentiality • Reading list • Website list
(See below for blank templates and completed examples)
Templates – A set of EQA Records (in Word) (£3.50)
Can be used by EQAs who do not have their own EQA record system
Completed examples are available to purchase below Ref: E9008
Completed example of a full set of EQA Records (£4.00)
9 pages of completed examples of: Centre record & contact log, Visit and sample plan, IQA observation checklist, Observation checklist - Training delivery, Observation checklist – Assessment, Assessor interview checklist, IQA interview checklist, Learner interview checklist, Witness interview checklist.
A set of blank templates in Word is available to purchase above: Ref AT020