ASQA permits RTOs to hold registration during COVID-19 pandemic

The National VET Regulator has advised the sector today that it will allow providers significantly affected by COVID-19 to maintain their registration by placing it on hold (effectively in hibernation) until the situation improves. This hold would be in place of registration withdrawal.

Read more here:  https://www.asqa.gov.au/news-events/news/registration-hold-now-available-providers-significantly-affected-covid-19   

ITECA calls on government to support independent tertiary education system during global crisis

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA ) is asking for a moratorium on all routine reporting and auditing activity, plus suspension of charges levied on the independent tertiary education system so that ITECA members can focus on supporting their students and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feature Article: A business continuity plan should form part of your overall business plan.

A business continuity plan should form part of your overall business plan.

Failure to plan is planning to fail

What is a Business Continuity Plan (BCP):

A BCP provides a clear outline of what systems to implement to ensure your RTO continues to operate in the event of a crisis or other disruptive event like a natural disaster. You BCP should also deal with recovery from the disruption and provide steps to return to normal business operations. The plan ensures that your staff and assets are protected and your RTO is able to function quickly in the event of a crisis.  RTOs must understand the processes within their organisation and the potential impact of the loss of these processes over time. Financial, legal, reputational or regulatory losses could be a result of the mishandling of a disruption to business operations. Special consideration should be given to the risk of having your RTO’s “license to operate” withdrawn by a regulator or having sanctions or conditions applied to how you can operate as it can adversely affect your reputation and brand. Your BCP should incorporate your recovery strategy around the allowable downtime for these processes.

Benefits of a BCP

  • Ensures your most critical business functions can continue during a crisis or disruption
  • Ensures your have a way to get your business operations functionally up and running so your RTO can continue to be viable after a crisis or disruption
  • Protects your RTOs reputation and value and increases customer confidence in your brand by being able to handle any incident effectively
  • Minimises the impact of a disruption to your RTOs bottom line
  • Supports your RTOs ability to maintain compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Mitigates business risks particularly for uninsurable events and provides a mechanism in which to comply with insurance policies
  • Builds business resilience and sustainability

Developing your BCP

Use these six steps to develop your RTOs plan:

  1. Identify the scope of the BCP e.g. all RTO operations and locations.
  2. Identify key business areas e.g. HR, ICT etc.
  3. Identify critical functions e.g. payroll, customer service/enrolments, learning and teaching
  4. Identify dependencies between various business areas and functions. e.g. key personnel register, external suppliers
  5. Determine acceptable downtime for each critical process e.g. maximum acceptable outages
  6. Create a plan to maintain operations e.g. key documents and records, ICT systems register, work from home arrangements

Implementing your BCP

Your RTO business continuity plan will form part of your overall business plan. Your BCP should contain all of the information you need to get your RTO up and running again after a crisis or disruptive event. The size and complexity of your BCP will depend on the size of your RTO.  RTO senior management must drive the development and implementation of the BCP; this cannot be delegated to other staff. Management is also critical in ensuring the BCP is communicated to all staff so they are aware of how to respond appropriately in the event of a crisis or disruptive event.

References

https://www.business.qld.gov.au/running-business/protecting-business/risk-management/continuity-planning

Feature Article: Responding to an ASQA notice of intent to make a decision

Feature Article: Responding to an ASQA notice of intent to make a decision

Receiving a notice from ASQA:

Under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (NVR Act), ASQA may issue notices such as a notice of intention to make a decision to an RTO as a result of an audit conducted or complaint received about your RTO by the national regulator. The NVR and ESOS Acts provides ASQA with the powers to apply sanctions of increasing severity—starting from written directions and additional conditions on registration through to suspending or cancelling a provider’s registration. In the event your RTO receives this type of correspondence from ASQA it is critical you understand how to respond to the proposed sanctions effectively to ensure you do not lose your RTO’s licence to operate.

Leadership:

The RTO senior leadership must immediately take action to address the issues identified in the notice and commence working on a plan to respond to ASQA. EDministrate recommends seeking legal advice if the proposed sanction refers to cancellation, rejection of application to renew registration or suspension so you are well informed and clear on your legal options. It is important that the RTO senior leadership remains calm and level headed during this time. Roles and responsibilities of staff involved in contributing to your RTO’s response to ASQA must be clearly defined and expectations communicated to ensure the actions taken are appropriate. If you are the CEO of a small RTO with little or no other senior staff you may consider seeking the support of external consultants such as EDministrate to help you plan your response and next steps.

Resources:

One of the first steps that should be taken in this matter is to identify internal capability within your RTO. Do you have the expertise in house to prepare your response to ASQA and take the required actions i.e. rectifications and remedial action? If not seek assistance from compliance experts such as EDministrate. While your RTO must continue to operate business as usual while you respond to ASQA’s notice you need to ensure that this issue is given absolute priority in your business so you meet the required deadline and you satisfactorily address all issues identified by ASQA .

Communication:

If there are extenuating circumstances preventing you from providing your response to ASQA by the deadline given you must contact them immediately to request additional time so that they can consider your case. Failure to do this could have an adverse impact on you successfully addressing the issues identified and meeting the required timeframe. It is also critical that you develop a communication strategy to address any concerns your students or other clients may have should they become aware of proposed action against your RTO. It is extremely important that you manage any potential reputational damage that could be caused by regulatory action taken against your RTO to limit any negative impact on your business.

References:

https://www.asqa.gov.au/faqs/how-does-asqa-determine-what-level-sanction-applies-non-compliance

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/fact-sheets/administrative-appeals-tribunal-review-of-an-asqa-decision

https://www.asqa.gov.au/resources/fact-sheets/addressing-non-compliances-following-an-audit

Featured Article: Preparing your ASQA CEO annual declaration response

Submission of annual declaration:

RTOs must submit their annual declaration on compliance by midnight 31 March. ASQA has sent an email on Friday 21 February 2020 to each RTO’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO)containing a unique URL to the RTOs survey. A reminder email was also sent by ASQA to CEO’s on Friday 13 March 2020 advising of the requirement.

If the CEO’s email has not been received by your RTO check your details in ASQAnet urgently and take action to rectify any errors with contact details.  Notify ASQA immediately so the email with the survey link can be sent to the CEO. Not receiving the email is not an excuse to fail to submit your RTO’s declaration as it is a requirement of the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (SRTOs) 2015.

RTO obligations:

RTOs are required to adhere to Clauses 2.1; 8.1; and 8.4 specifically in the SRTOs 2015:

Clause 2.1

The RTO ensures it complies with these Standards at all times, including where services are being delivered on its behalf. This applies to all operations of an RTO within its scope of registration.

Clause 8.1 

The RTO cooperates with the VET Regulator:

  • by providing accurate and truthful responses to information requests from the VET Regulator relevant to the RTO’s registration
  • in the conduct of audits and the monitoring of its operations
  • by providing quality/performance indicator data
  • by providing information about substantial changes to its operations or any event that would significantly affect the RTO’s ability to comply with these standards within 90 calendar days of the change occurring
  • by providing information about significant changes to its ownership within 90 calendar days of the change occurring
  • in the retention, archiving, retrieval and transfer of records.

Clause 8.4

The RTO provides an annual declaration on compliance with these Standards to the VET [vocational education and training] regulator and in particular whether it:

  1. currently meets the requirements of the Standards across all its scope of registration and has met the requirements of the Standards for all AQF [Australian Qualifications Framework] certification documentation it has issued in the previous 12 months
  2. has training and assessment strategies and practices in place that ensure that all current and prospective learners will be trained and assessed in accordance with the requirements of the Standards.

CEO responsibility:

Whether the CEO completes the declaration on their own or in consultation with RTO compliance staff the responses provided should be honest and accurate. Therefore, reliable sources of data must be referred to when responding to each question asked in the survey. Information from the RTOs internal audits, reviews or quality checks are critical indicators of the RTOs past and current compliance status. If your organisation has adhered to Clause 2.1. by ensuring it is compliant with the SRTOs 2015 at all times you should have been ‘systematically’ monitoring the RTO’s compliance and have analysed the data obtained by your compliance activities.

Self-Assessment:

If your RTO does not have current and reliable data on its compliance status you should follow ASQA’s advice provided in the correspondence sent to the CEO and utilise ASQA’s Self-Assessment Tool to assist in preparation of the annual declaration.  If your RTO does not have the capability or resources to undertake the self-assessment or preparation of the annual declaration then seek assistance from experts like EDministrate to ensure you fully comply with ASQA’s requirements.

References:

https://www.asqa.gov.au/news-events/news/annual-declaration-compliance-open-until-31-march-2020

https://www.asqa.gov.au/news-events/news/regulatory-decisions-update-31-october-2017

https://www.asqa.gov.au/rto/responsibilities/complying-asqa-requirements#annual-declaration-on-compliance

https://www.asqa.gov.au/standards/compliance-governance/clauses-2.1-8.4-to-8.6

https://www.asqa.gov.au/faqs/what-annual-declaration-compliance-clause-84