What is a centre?
What is an awarding organisation?
Things to consider before becoming a centre
Centre recognition and approval
Compliance and quality assurance
Documents to support centres
A centre is a business which has been approved by an awarding organisation (AO) to offer their qualifications. Any business can become a centre, providing they meet the requirements to operate as a centre; and to deliver, assess and quality assure particular qualifications. Examples of centres include: colleges, private training organisations, commercial businesses, charities, adult education centres, prisons and the forces.
If you wish to become a centre, you will need to have suitable premises and systems in place, along with policies and procedures; as well as appropriate staff and relevant resources. You don't have to employ all your staff, you can use freelancers or those who are self-employed. However, you will need to keep full records and make it clear if staff are responsible for paying their own tax and national insurance, and if they can claim any legitimate expenses from you.
Your learners will want to know that they will receive a good quality service, with support from knowledgeable staff, towards a legitimate qualification. I have produced some tips to help learners find a reputable centre, take a look here to see if they will help you when preparing to become a centre.
An awarding organisation (AO) is a business which is regulated by a public body, for example by: Ofqual, SQA, Qualifications Wales and CCEA. The AO enables approved centres to offer qualifications to learners. Successful learners will receive a certificate with the AOs name on, as well as the name of the centre.
An AO will design and develop qualifications which meet the requirements of employers and standard setting bodies (SSB). Several AOs can offer the same qualifications. This gives choice and enables competition. There will probably be an SSB for the qualifications you wish to offer. It might be worth finding out who they are, and how they work with AOs to develop qualifications.
AOs offer regulated qualifications (those which are on a regulated framework e.g. the RQF) as well as creating bespoke qualifications to meet a particular need, for example, in a particular employment area. AOs usually award vocational qualifications, whereas awarding 'bodies' award academic qualifications such as GCSEs and A levels.
There are differences between the type of qualifications offered i.e. whether it is regulated, accredited, approved or endorsed. You can find out the differences here. It might be worth checking this out to ensure that you offer the right type of qualification or programme to your learners.
There are many AOs you could choose from. Those which are registered with Ofqual are listed here and those who belong to the Federation of Awarding Bodies are listed here. If you are searching for an AO at these links, you will need to key in the full name, not the abbreviated name. I recommend Training Qualifications UK (TQUK).
Ask yourself if you have the time and the money to invest in the premises, staff and resources required to be a high quality centre. You should want to offer excellent customer service to your learners, train and support your staff, be accessible and responsible to all, and be passionate about quality. The costs involved will vary depending upon the type of premises you may need, and the staff and resources required for the qualifications you wish to offer. You will need to consider what computer systems and programs you will use, and whether you will offer courses online or use a blended approach. You can find out more about using technology here.
You will need to decide which awarding organisation you wish to become approved with. As there are many to choose from (see previous section) you need to choose wisely. I recommend that you consider their reputation i.e. the support and customer service they provide, and not just make a decision based on price.
Pricing also differs between AOs. Some charge an approval fee, an annual fee, and a fee for each external quality assurance activity. Besides these, fees are charged for the registration and certification of learners for each particular qualification. Most AOs make separate charges for registration and certification, and if a learner leaves before completing, you do not get your money back.
An AO which I recommend is TQUK. Their staff are friendly and helpful and they don't charge an annual fee, or a separate certification fee for registered learners. Also, if a learner leaves who has already been registered, you can re-use their place for another learner.
Not all AOs offer all qualifications, you will need to locate the website of an AO you wish to go with and check out what they offer. Take time to consider what you want from an AO and don't make a rash decision.
When you have decided which AO to go with, you will need to complete their approval documentation (which might be done online). The documentation will probably include two forms, one for centre approval and one for qualification approval.
Once you have made an application, you will be contacted by the AO and a date will be arranged for a meeting or a discussion to go through your application. It might be that the qualification approval (see below) is discussed at the same time as your centre approval.
You will need to supply details such as those to do with your premises, staff and resources; as well as provide various documents and records such as: policies and procedures, templates for assessment and internal quality assurance (IQA), and staff CVs.
When you are approved as a recognised centre, you should receive a centre number along with the name of a person who will be your contact at the awarding organisation.
Scroll down the page to find samples of documents and records which you can purchase if you don't have your own. Prices start at 50p.
Once you have met all the requirements to become a centre, or if you are currently a centre, you can apply to offer particular qualifications or add qualifications to your portfolio.
You will need to make an application to your AO detailing the qualifications you wish to offer, along with details of relevant staff and resources. Once you have made an application, you will be contacted by the AO and a date will be arranged for a meeting or a discussion to go through your qualification application.
You will need to make sure that your staff and resources are all suitable for each qualification you wish to offer. Depending upon the number of learners you will be registering, and the qualification offered, you will need at least one assessor and one internal quality assurer.
You should be able to download the qualification specification from the AOs website, or they will email it to you. Reading this will help you to ensure that you have everything in place beforehand i.e. suitable staff and resources. If you don't, you will receive an action plan from the AO with appropriate target dates for any missing aspects. The qualification specification can be used to plan how you will deliver, assess, and quality assure the qualification.
If you are a TQUK centre, you are eligible for 50% off the bulk buy option of resources for the: teaching & training; assessment; and quality assurance qualifications.
If you wish to purchase any of my text books for use with your learners (ebooks or paperback) you can find details here.
All approved centres must meet certain compliance and quality assurance arrangements from the awarding organisation. These will be explained to you when you become a centre.
Awarding organisations must meet certain criteria, for example, those in Ofqual's General Conditions of Recognition.
AOs will complete reports for various activities they carry out with your centre, such as sampling learners' work, assessment and IQA records. If something is not right, you will be given an action and/or improvement plan.
Once you have been approved by an AO, you should remain in regular contact with them, either via an administrator or an external quality assurer (EQA). They will need to carry out a successful monitoring visit or a remote activity before they can release certification rights. If successful, it means you can claim certificates for your learners when they complete.
The number of visits or activities carried out by the EQA will depend upon how many learners you have, how much activity is taking place, and how well you are performing as a centre (i.e. without any outstanding action points).
If you don't have documents such as assessment and IQA records, see below for: records; completed examples; documents and templates. All the documents are electronic and available to download upon checkout.
Centre checklist (£2.00) (Ref Z9002)
7 page checklist to help anyone who is considering becoming a centre.
It contains over 70 aspects which relate to: operating as a business; applying for centre approval; and applying for qualification approval. A list of policies and procedures is included, along with useful guidance and weblinks.
A full set of assessment records (in Word) (£3.00) (Ref AT001)
5 templates with instructions for you to amend to suit your own requirements:
Initial & diagnostic assessment, action plan, assessment plan, feedback and action record, assessment tracking sheet.
Completed examples of the assessment records in AT001 (£4.00) (Ref A9059)
Standardisation record (in Word) (50p) (Ref AT002)
2 page template which can be used to document the standardisation of assessment decisions.
Completed example of the standardisation record in AT002 (£1.50) (Ref A9062)
A full set of IQA plans and records (in Word) (£3.00) (Ref AT006)
7 templates with instructions. Includes: Observation Plan, Meeting and standardisation plan, Sample plan and tracking sheet, Training delivery checklist, Assessor observation checklist, Learner discussion checklist, Internal quality assurance sample report, and a Meeting agenda.
Completed examples of the IQA plans and records in AT006 (£4.00) (Ref I9016)
A set of EQA Records (in Word) (£3.50) (Ref AT020)
9 templates with instructions. Includes: 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.
Completed example of the EQA Records in AT020 (£4.00) (Ref E9008)
The role of a Lead IQA (£1.50) (Ref C9055)
3 pages of information covering what the lead IQA role involves, with approximately 30 responsibilities, details of how to perform the role effectively, relevant books and websites.
Preparing for an EQA visit (£1.50) (Ref I9018)
4 pages of information regarding preparing for an EQA visit once you are operational, along with a checklist.
These templates might prove useful for staff to use with learners.
Initial assessment form (in Word) (£2.00) (Ref AT018B)
2 page template with 10 initial assessment questions for potential applicants to complete. Can be used to gain information prior to learners commencing.
Scheme of work (in Word) (50p) (Ref AT014)
1 page template with relevant headings to help structure the content of a scheme of work. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements.
Session plan (in Word) 50p (Ref AT007)
1 page template with relevant headings to help structure the content of a session plan. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements.
Group profile (in Word) (£1.00) (Ref AT024)
1 page template to add details regarding individual learners. It includes columns for: name, age, gender/ethnicity, prior skills/knowledge, initial and diagnostic assessment results, learning/learner needs/support requirements, barriers/challenges, attendance & behaviour concerns, additional targets.
Programme/course evaluation (in Word) (£1.00) (Ref AT015)
1 page template with 13 questions for learners to answer, with responses of 1-4 for each. Can easily be adapted to suit your own programme or course evaluation requirements.
Individual learning plan (ILP) (in Word) (£1.00) (Ref AT023)
1 page template which can be completed with a learner's initial and diagnostic assessment results, and learning support requirements. There is space to set targets and goals, along with achievement dates, reviews and updates to the plan.
Workshop Plan (in Word) (£1.00)
1 page of information and a workshop plan template. Can be used by teachers & trainers who have learners in the same group who are working towards different objectives or tasks throughout a session.
Tutorial review (in Word) (50p)
1 page blank template of a tutorial review template. Can be used with learners when reviewing their progress/achievement and concerns. Actions and target dates can be set.
Reflective Learning Journal (in Word) (50p) (Ref AT005)
1 page template which can be used as a reflective learning journal. Helps focus thoughts by explaining, describing, analysing and revising actions.