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Preparing for an external quality assurance review

We want you to feel confident and prepared for external quality assurance, so this page will provide you with all the information you need.

Our approach to external quality assurance

External quality assurance reviews take place periodically. During these reviews External Quality Assurers (EQAs) sample centre assessment decisions, for a cohort of learners, per quality assurance (QA) group. This activity may take place before or after results are issued.

The purpose of the external quality assurance review is to verify and check the centres:

  • assessment decisions to ensure the assessment criteria is understood and accurately and consistently applied across Assessors and the assessments remains fit for purpose.
  • internal quality assurance systems, to ensure Internal Quality Assurers (IQAs) are interpreting the standards correctly, grading correctly and maintaining accurate record.

We’ll carry out at least one external quality assurance review each session; this ensures we have the correct balance between how we quality assurer centres, without being over burdensome.

Plan your reviews efficiently with your EQA, you may have up to up to 2 free of charge reviews per QA Group in each academic year. Further reviews if required will be charged in line with our fees and pricing guide.

Our regulated qualifications, awards and units are available within the following QA groups.

Preparing for external quality assurance reviews

Make the most of the support available by registering your learners early through the Portal. Our Portal User Guide explains how to do this.

It’s best practice to register your learners by batch. This helps the EQA to plan their sample, it also makes claiming certificates more efficient, as you can claim by batch, rather than individual claims by learner.

Once a learner is registered the EQA will contact the allocated Programme Contact at the centre to ensure they have the information they need to deliver, assess and internally quality assure the qualifications they have approval for within the QA group. 

It is the centre’s responsibility to ensure that the correct individual is listed with us and that that individual liaises with all internal colleagues/departments offering the suite of qualifications being reviewed. If this is not managed effectively it could result in the centre being charged for an additional review should a department be missed during sampling.  

The EQA will also work with the Programme Contact to negotiate a suitable date for the review/s to take place, between 1 August and 31 July. Most reviews will take place remotely; however, face-to-face reviews are available on request. Additional reviews can also be requested, if required but there is a charge.

Qualifications with fixed start and end points are generally reviewed at the end of the qualification, whereas roll on roll off programs are reviewed at different intervals, where sufficient evidence is available.

Centres must have at least one review, each session, per QA group.

Most reviews will take place remotely, however there may be some instances where the review will take place at the centre. This will be determined in line with our sampling strategy and centre risk rating. Centres can also request the review takes place at the centre.

If the review is taking place at the centre, all evidence including learner evidence, assessment records and internal quality assurance documents for all learners on the sampling plan must be available to view at the centre during the review. The EQA may select further samples on the day.

In line with our CASS strategy the EQA may ask to observe an assessment taking place. This may involve the observation of a learner assessment or feedback to a learner. Where this is required, the EQA will inform you prior to the review.

Prior to the review the Programme Contact should review the previous external quality assurance report, where applicable and work with the delivery team within the centre to ensure all actions have been addressed.

External quality assurance reports can be accessed via the Portal.

Prior to the review the Programme Contact should:

Your EQA will typically send you your sampling plan approximately 4 weeks ahead of the review. The EQA will send you a OneDrive link to upload the files to. All evidence should be uploaded at least 48 hours before the review.

If this is not received the review will be cancelled and the centre will be charged in accordance with our fees and pricing document. A new date will be agreed in line with the EQA’s availability. This may result in delays to certification.

NCFE has a cancellation policy of 10 working days. If reviews are not cancelled within 10 working days, we reserve the right to charge the centre in line with our fees and pricing guide.

Assessment plans must show details of:

  • learner achievement for all programmes covered as part of the review.
  • Assessor(s) and Internal Quality Assurer(s) (IQA) names per learner.

You can create your own assessment plans.

Internal quality assurance plans must show details of learners and Assessors covered as part of IQA sampling.

You can create your own internal quality assurance plans.

When planning external quality assurance reviews, EQAs select their sample in line with our EQA sampling strategy. This strategy ensures a risk-based approach is taken to monitoring assessment decisions made by centres.

Once your EQA has the required information, they’ll send the Programme Contact a sampling plan identifying which learners’ evidence will be subject to review. Centres should inform the EQA if they’ve selected an inactive learner for sampling, so they can choose another learner. Any inactive learners must be withdrawn in the portal.

For more information on EQA sampling, refer to our EQA sampling strategy.

To ensure your review goes ahead as planned you must send the required information 48 hours ahead of the review using the OneDrive link supplied by the EQA.

If this is not received the review will be cancelled and the centre will be charged in accordance with our fees and pricing document. A new date will be agreed in line with the EQA’s availability. This may result in delays to certification.

The below evidence must be sent for each learner on the sampling plan:

  • Learner evidence
  • Assessment records
  • IQA records.

The EQA may need to expand their sample on the day of the review and centres must be prepared to provide further evidence if requested.

If during the review the EQA identifies missing evidence, this will be requested during the review, failure to supply this during the review will result in an action on the report and a potential delay in certification of results.

Where the qualification:

  • Covers skills and knowledge – send one piece of knowledge evidence and one piece of skills evidence per learner and vary assessment methods, grades and units across learners.
  • Involves a research project – send one full research project for a learner.
  • Requires a longitudinal study – send one full longitudinal study for a learner.
  • Contains a graded unit rather than pass/refer – send all evidence relating to the final grade and provide a range of units over the learner sample.

This form helps us to ensure our qualifications meet the needs of centres and learners. You only need to send this form, once per session, per QA group.

Centre feedback form

This form allows learners to share feedback about their experience on the qualification. When completing this form, provide details of 2 learners who have agreed to be contacted. By completing this form, you are providing permission for the learners to be contacted.

You only need to send this form, once per session, per QA group.

Learner feedback form

During the external quality assurance review

During the external quality assurance review, EQAs also quality assure centre’s, delivery and assessment, and internal quality assurance processes and procedures to ensure centres are consistently compliant with our Approval Criteria and Centre Agreement and enable EQAs to make a decision regarding the centre’s ability to retain approval and continue to deliver our products.

EQAs sample assessments across a range of learners ensuring the Assessor’s marking is correct and the assessment criteria is being consistently applied. The EQA will refer to the Qualification Specification to ensure the evidence generated by the learner is admissible.

Where the EQA identifies any misinterpretation of the assessment criteria, feedback will be provided and an additional review will be planned to ensure feedback has been taken on board, Assessor’s marking is correct, and the assessment criteria is being consistently applied.

EQAs will also review previous action plans to establish if previous action points can be closed or if there are any outstanding actions. Where any actions are outstanding, this is highlighted in the current report. The EQA will work with the centre to help them to understand the actions required and how these can be resolved, referring the centre to any guidance documents or support tools. The EQA will continue to work the centre between reviews to address any actions, where necessary.

If you’re using e-portfolio, send the EQA secure login details so they can access the system.

Following the external quality assurance review

At the end of the external quality assurance review feedback is provided to the centre, verbally and through the external quality assurance review report. This feedback includes recognition of good practice and encouragement where quality assessment has been identified. The report includes a range of criteria centres must achieve to continue to offer NCFE’s products.

Each centre will receive a grade from 1 – 5 based on their marking accuracy and supporting systems that will indicate level of competence, and in turn the level of support that centre requires to meet expected standards.

Centres who are graded 3 or below for any criteria are given actions within the report to complete prior to their next review.  This may also result in the removal of their DCS, where applicable. The urgency of the action plan will be determined by the grading and the date for their next review. Centres deemed higher risk may receive a face-to-face review, which may be at short notice.

As part of the report, EQAs also record the centre’s reliability of assessments, centres who score C or below for reliability of assessment are recorded on the EQA Risk Register.

Following your review, use the Portal to claim certificates for completed learners. Certificates are issued within 24 hours.

If you have Direct Claims Status (DCS), certificates will be issued automatically. Read more about DCS on our dedicated DCS page.

We’re very keen to hear about your experience, so please share your feedback with us. Your Programme Contact will receive a survey after the review which asks for your feedback. This helps us to work towards our aim of providing world class customer service.

Additional information and support

There may be times when you want to record your quality assurance review. You may want to record the conversation at the start of the review or the feedback at the end. If you want to record a session you must confirm with all participants that:

A) this is okay
B) when the recording is going to start
C) ask those who do not want to be in the video to turn off their camera

All participants then need to ensure learner names/details are not discussed throughout the meeting for data protection/GDPR. If you want to take photos of the screen which includes a person’s picture and name - seek consent first.