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Reducing monitoring burden

Last updated on: 12/03/2008

The Further education: raising skills, improving life chances White Paper for England contained a remit for us to work with key partners to reduce the monitoring burden on centres.

The White Paper stated:

'We want to ensure that the monitoring of colleges by awarding bodies and other organisations relates directly to risk. Colleges with a good record of qualifications delivery should have fewer checks than those where there are quality concerns. In addition, the burden of multiple awarding body inspections must be reduced. A new approach will be trialled by the start of the 2007/08 academic year and introduced more widely in 2008/09. The QCA will work with the LSC, the inspectorates, sector representatives and awarding bodies to identify the basis on which robust judgments can be made.'

The project will be taken forward by Ofqual, DCELLS and CCEA with SQA retaining an observer status. In taking this work forward, the project board agreed to expand the scope of the project to cover all accredited qualification types and centres across England and Northern Ireland. Currently, in Wales the project will not apply to general qualifications. It is likely that the outcomes of this project will not be a single solution that is applied to all qualification types and centres, but rather that tailored solutions will be developed where required.

This brief summary of the remit from the White Paper describes how the regulators are working together to extend the scope of the project to cover all qualification types and centres across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

About the project

The aims of the project are to:

  • reduce the monitoring burden on centres by reducing multiple inspections
  • develop a risk management system in centres in England, Wales and Northern Ireland so that there is consistency across all three countries.

The introduction of a risk management system will help achieve the aims stated in the White Paper by making it possible to determine appropriate levels of monitoring.

Background to the Centre Recognition Project

The regulatory criteria published in April 2004 and implemented in September 2004 introduced criteria for centre approval across most qualification types. Previously, centre approval criteria only existed in relation to NVQs. While those criteria were tightly specified in the NVQ code of practice 2001, awarding bodies applied the criteria in different ways. This meant that centres that worked with more than one NVQ awarding body had to complete multiple applications for centre and qualification approval.

To avoid increasing the bureaucracy on centres, the regulators have postponed the introduction of the new centre approval criteria until they can ensure their consistent and efficient introduction across all qualification types. In autumn 2004 the regulators consulted on broad proposals for a common centre recognition and qualification approval process across awarding bodies; this received positive feedback.

The 2004 annual report by the Bureaucracy Review Group, headed by Sir Andrew Foster, highlighted bureaucracy across the education sector. The report specifically cited the bureaucracy placed on centres by awarding bodies and regulatory requirements.

The Centre Recognition Project - current position

In response to the Foster report, we and our regulatory partners in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have taken forward the centre recognition project which aims to develop and implement a common process across participating awarding bodies for recognising centres that are capable of delivering accredited qualifications and units. The aim is to reduce the burden associated with the current arrangements and streamline the process.

After engaging with various awarding bodies and stakeholders throughout 2006, we are now working closely with the Federation of Awarding Bodies in order to make further progress with the project. The plans to develop an online database / IT system have now been removed from the project, along with the previously proposed 'common sanctions'.

Potential benefits include:

  • Common requirements and standardisation of forms for centre recognition and qualification approval will result in increased quality of data provided by centres due to them knowing what the awarding bodies are looking for
  • Time will be saved through a reduction in the administrative burden to both centres and awarding bodies. Centres will recognise the format of the form
  • All applications will be consistent with the required quality standards due to the forms being developed in consultation with awarding bodies
  • Clear quality standards for sectors will be maintained.

Future plans

The White Paper requested that the outcomes are piloted in September 2007 and implemented from September 2008.

The regulators in England (Ofqual), Wales (DCELLS), Northern Ireland (CCEA) and Scotland (SQA) are taking forward the Centre Recognition Project, which aims to develop and implement a common process across awarding bodies for recognising centres that are capable of delivering accredited qualifications and units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and SVQs in Scotland.


The regulatory authorities appointed Capgemini to research existing monitoring arrangements across recognised awarding bodies and consult with key stakeholders on how best to reduce the monitoring burden on centres. The findings of their research can be downloaded from this page.

The regulatory authorities also appointed PKF (UK) LLP to conduct further research about monitoring burden in large further education centres with multiple awarding body relationships. This concluded in April 2008 and built on the previous research conducted by Capgemini.  The focus of the PKF research was on centres and their experience of monitoring burden. The findings of the research can be downloaded from this page.


The regulators in England (QCA), Wales (DCELLS), Northern Ireland (CCEA) are working in conjunction with major stakeholder groups to assist in developing and implementing project proposals. A list of the stakeholders involved in the project can be downloaded from this page.

Consultation outcomes

In November 2004 we consulted on a new Centre recognition and qualifications approval process. The consultation finished in January 2005 and the outcomes can be downloaded from this page.