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Understanding performance assessments – your RTO's guide to successful performance assessments with ASQA

November 8, 2021

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. 

What is a performance assessment (audit)?

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:

  • how learners commence their journey at marketing and recruitment
  • when learners enrol
  • how learners are supported as they learn
  • how training and assessment is conducted
  • how learners complete and are issued with their qualification.

When is a performance assessment necessary?

ASQA may conduct a performance assessment: 

  • if you’ve made an application to be a provider, change your scope or renew your registration
  • if ASQA has data or information that indicates you may be at risk of not meeting each of your regulatory obligations
  • as part of ASQA’s monitoring process to sample random providers.

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:

  • understand performance 
  • identify areas of non-compliance 
  • hold providers to account to make changes to their systems and practices to ensure the requirements of the legislation and standards are met. 

How to prepare for a performance assessment

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:

  • planning and conducting and the performance assessment
  • preparing the performance assessment report
  • any other business process incurring an assessor’s time.

Note: fees for performance assessments are currently waived until 31 December 2021 due to COVID-19. 

What does the process of a performance assessment look like?

The performance assessment process considers three key questions:

  1. Does your practice align with the requirements of the Standard?
  2. Do you have a system for ensuring ongoing compliance with the Standard?
  3. Do you regularly monitor, review and continuously improve (self-assure) to ensure compliance with the Standard?

The performance assessment process has 5 key steps. Let’s go through them. 

1. ASQA contacts you and plans the scope of your performance assessment

First, ASQA will make initial contact with you. This will likely be a call from the performance assessor, where you will discuss: 

  • the reasons for the performance assessment and the process
  • the performance assessment process
  • dates for the opening meeting and interview days
  • where your interview will take place: onsite or video conferencing.

ASQA will email these details, as well as their request for preliminary information, which may include: 

  • learner contact information to interview your learners
  • up to date information on learner enrolment and completion numbers.

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:

  • enrolment and completion data
  • compliance history
  • current and past complaints
  • intelligence from other regulators and agencies
  • applications that will be considered as part of the performance assessment, where applicable.

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:

  • have subsidised training contracts with Commonwealth, State and Territory Training Authorities
  • are a provider who is also a registered provider for delivering VET to international learners on a student visa.

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. 

2. Your compliance with the Standards is tested by collecting and analysing evidence

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:

  • policies and procedures, and training and assessment strategies
  • photographs of the premises
  • learner files, including enrolment forms and completed learner assessments
  • trainer or assessor records
  • other documents and evidence relevant to the scope of your performance assessment.

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: 

  • How do you ensure that training and assessment strategies align with training package requirements? 
  • How do you ensure that practices align with training and assessment strategies? 
  • How have the outcomes of industry engagement been incorporated into your strategies and practice? 
  • How do you know, from an organisation perspective, that marketing information is accurate?

The purpose of the interview process is to help ASQA to: 

  • understand how your organisation operates
  • clarify the information you’ve provided
  • explore your organisation’s performance against the standards. 

3. ASQA holds a closing meeting to explain findings to date

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:

  1. review any additional evidence
  2. prepare your assessment report
  3. make recommendations to ASQA.

4. ASQA writes a performance assessment report that identifies compliance and non-compliance

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:

  • has a negligible impact on learners
  • does not impact the overall intent or outcome required of the standard
  • can be readily fixed
  • is not systemic
  • is administrative in nature
  • could have occurred despite controls being in place (e.g. is likely inadvertent, an accident or unintended).

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. 

5. ASQA shares their findings with you and outlines the next steps

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: 


Did you know?

aXcelerate is Australia’s number 1 cloud-based Student Management System and Learning Management System. Why pay for two systems when aXcelerate can be your all in one SMS and LMS solution? 

From starting out as an RTO, to developing our software and continuing to grow through many changes in the VET sector over the past 32 years, we’ve helped almost 1000 training organisations thrive with aXcelerate’s One System SMS/LMS solution.

Learn how we can help your training organisation here, or chat with us to see how we can work with you to reach your training management goals here


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