What do you feel when someone says ‘performance assessment’ or ‘audit’? Do you start to feel stressed, palms a little sweaty at the thought of that first call with a performance assessor (auditor)? Worried the process will be too confusing, with a disappointing outcome?
If you answered yes to those questions, or you need a refresher on ASQA’s updates to the performance assessment process, this article is for you. Let’s break down each stage of a standard performance assessment by ASQA, and what that might look like for your RTO.
Performance assessments ensure the integrity of Australian training providers and the qualifications they deliver. If a training provider is found to be compliant (i.e. meeting the Standards and relevant legislation) after a performance assessment, this aims to give learners assurances that their education investment has value and purpose.
Performance assessments are organised around the five key phases of the student experience:
ASQA may conduct a performance assessment:
The monitoring process is informed by ASQA’s data and intelligence, which looks at systemic and individual provider risk and detects possible failure by providers to meet the requirements of legislation and the Standards. ASQA uses this data to select the most appropriate compliance monitoring activity and targeted sampling of providers. This is done to:
The best way to prepare for a performance assessment is to always be at a place where you don’t need to prepare for one. This means maintaining sound policies, processes and systems, with your staff consistently putting these into practice in your day-to-day operations.
(We recommend reviewing your Student Management System and Learning Management System – are these systems helping you stay compliant, or creating more work and added complexity for your compliance staff?).
You should also make sure your learner experience is meeting the requirements of the Standards, and that you’re meeting your legal and management responsibilities.
One great way to check that you’re meeting these requirements is to do regular self-assessment with ASQA’s self-assessment tool. The results of the self-assessment can be used as a starting point for developing an action plan with timelines, actions assigned and more. Your documented systems and processes should also be a clear guide for the way your staff operate, and the way you conduct your business. (ASQA has stated there will be an updated tool coming soon).
What does a performance assessment cost?
The cost of a performance assessment, excluding those conducted as part of an Initial Registration application is $275 for an assessor, per hour.
The cost includes:
Note: fees for performance assessments are currently waived until 31 December 2021 due to COVID-19.
The performance assessment process considers three key questions:
The performance assessment process has 5 key steps. Let’s go through them.
First, ASQA will make initial contact with you. This will likely be a call from the performance assessor, where you will discuss:
ASQA will email these details, as well as their request for preliminary information, which may include:
The scope of the performance assessment is then planned with the clauses and training products they intend to sample by reviewing the profile of the provider and the identified risk factors, including:
ASQA’s sampling approach means that to understand your performance, they’ll usually look at some, but not all Standards, and will sample evidence across your training products.
ASQA also takes a risk-based and customised approach. This means your performance assessment could have a narrow focus, or it could be broadly scoped – it all depends on the risks to learners for each provider.
Does the size of my training organisation have an impact on ASQA’s evidence requirements?
Regardless of the size and scope of a provider, the requirements for ongoing and sustained compliance don’t change. The Standards describe outcomes rather than inputs, so your governance, systems and continuous improvement activities will provide a strong foundation for meeting the Standards, training package and accredited course requirements, while looking at your ability to self-identify and treat any risks relating to the delivery of quality learner outcomes.
Keep in mind you may have additional evidence retention requirements if you:
The opening meeting
The first meeting you’ll have with ASQA will be between you and the assessor who is conducting your performance assessment. The assessor will take you through the assessment process again, and you’ll be able to ask questions and provide the assessor with more information about your organisation.
After your opening meeting, the assessor will request more information from you. Your assessor will collect evidence by reviewing documents, conducting interviews and making observations. They will clarify and validate this evidence with you during your interviews.
ASQA uses a staged approach so that they can properly assess the information as it comes in, and determine the additional material that may be needed. Generally, information requested will include policies and procedures, training and assessment strategies, assessment instruments, and learner and trainer/assessor records.
ASQA collects evidence via:
Information requests via email – this will happen after your opening meeting, and will include details on how you should submit the information to ASQA.
Evidence requested will vary depending on the scope of your performance assessment, but may include:
Virtual or onsite observations – the assessor may collect evidence via observation at your site or virtually. An assessment of performance against the standards may be limited or broad in scope and may or may not involve a site visit. Observations will vary depending on the scope of your performance assessment, but may include your facilities and physical and virtual training and assessment equipment and resources. Site visits may involve interviews with the provider’s management, trainers, assessors or learners, or observations to confirm access to equipment and resources.
Interviewing you, your trainers, assessors, learners (over 18 years) and others – interviews may be held on site or by video conference. Depending on the scope of your performance assessment, you may have more than one interview. Questions that may be asked include:
The purpose of the interview process is to help ASQA to:
As part of the interview process, ASQA holds a closing meeting where they’ll discuss any issues identified during the performance assessment to date.
After your closing meeting the assessor will:
At this stage, you’ll need to know the difference between a non-compliance and a minor deficiency. A minor deficiency is technically a non-compliance under the Standards, but they don’t impact the quality of training or the outcomes for learners. A deficiency may be minor where it collectively:
For example, incorrect course codes being used in marketing material, or minor issues with policies and procedures that don’t have an impact on quality of training or outcomes for learners. Assessors will consider the nature, extent, impact, prevalence, oversight and likelihood of recurrence of the deficiency to assess its significance.
Minor deficiencies will be recorded in the performance assessment report, but it will be clear that the issues were sufficiently minor and did not result in a finding of non-compliance against the relevant regulatory requirement.
Minor deficiencies are still expected to be rectified, but they won’t impact the overall compliance rating of your training organisation.
A non-compliance is something that ASQA believes will impact the learner or the community, or the way in which the training is delivered isn’t in line with the training package. These are generally systemic issues that pose the greatest risk.
ASQA considers the assessor’s recommendations at this stage. If you’re compliant – congratulations! ASQA will write to you to let you know. You don’t need to take any further action, just keep doing what you’ve been doing.
If you’re found to be non-compliant, you’ll get your performance assessment report and a notification letter telling you what happens next.
You’ll have opportunities to respond and make changes to rectify non-compliance. This means your RTO will be expected to assess the impact of the non-compliant practices on current and past learners. Your RTO will then need to provide evidence that demonstrates you have taken (or will take) adequate remedial action to rectify the impact, as well as correcting practices or systems to ensure compliance in the future.
We hope this article has been helpful! For more information, check out this webinar from ASQA on understanding performance assessments:
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