The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has released its latest regulatory strategy this morning, setting out the agency’s priorities to 2021.
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) has been identified as a key area of focus for the agency, with ASQA Chief Commissioner and CEO, Mark Paterson AO, saying the new strategy advises how regulatory activity will “remain focused on responding to the most significant risks in a sector largely made up of quality providers.”
The strategy makes specific mention of the early childhood education and care sector, noting “ongoing concerns about early childhood care and education qualifications, including training and assessment practices, poor work placement management and a lack of confidence in the job readiness of graduates.” ASQA used the statement to assert that it will “continue to monitor providers delivering CHC50113 Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care.”
Using key target areas and strategic initiatives, the Regulatory Strategy will continue the work identified in previous years to address key systemic challenges in the VET and CRICOS sectors, including in trainer and assessor capability, protecting Australia’s quality international education and training, and strengthening registration requirements.
The latest regulatory strategy seeks to inform providers and the broader VET community “of where we are seeing evidence of risk to our sector, and where we will subsequently apply greater regulatory focus.” Mr Patterson said.
Target area 1: Trainer and assessor capability
Trainer and assessor capability has been identified as a critical concern for the VET sector in three consecutive regulatory strategies—2016–17, 2017–18 and 2018–20.
Trainer and assessor capability continues to be raised by stakeholders as a systemic issue, ASQA said, and will remain a target area in 2019–21.
When seeking feedback in relation to this issue, stakeholders shared with ASQA issues relating to both a shortage in supply of appropriately skilled trainers and assessors, and the need to upgrade the knowledge, skills and industry currency of the current workforce.
ASQA said they will continue the work it has been doing to encourage compliance in the delivery of the TAE training package and provide guidance to providers.
Target area 2: VET in schools
In the last two decades, the number and proportion of students undertaking VET while enrolled in secondary school has increased significantly.
In recent years, the closure of several providers with large numbers of VET in schools enrolments has highlighted key risks in relation to VET delivered in schools, including:
- the provision of accurate information to support students in making an informed decision to enrol in a VET program
- ensuring teachers/trainers and assessors delivering the program are appropriately qualified
- alignment between training and assessment delivery and the requirements of the relevant training package
- availability of sufficient learning and assessment resources to support students
- timely certification of students on completion of their training
- adequacy of partnering arrangements.
In response, as part of the regulatory strategy, ASQA will write to the relevant education and training authorities in state and territory governments to provide advice about the risks identified through recent regulatory activity concerning VET in schools.
ASQA will also, in consultation with other regulators and all state and territory governments;
- undertake a scoping study to further clarify the key risks associated with VET delivered in secondary schools, and understand how these risks interact with the delivery models in each jurisdiction
- research the delivery and quality assurance of VET for secondary school students in other countries
- analyse the findings of existing research and reviews
- provide further advice to all state and territory Ministers with responsibilities for education and training concerning the risks identified through recent audits of RTOs delivering VET in secondary schools
- consider whether a regulatory response and/or further work is required, including a potential strategic review into VET delivered in secondary schools.
Standards of concern
ASQA identifies the clauses in the Standards for which VET providers are most likely to be at risk of non compliance, by analysing both non-compliance identified through reports about providers and non-compliances found at audit.
In 2019, ASQA identified the following clauses of concern in the Standards for RTOs, which will be used, as part of the strategy, to assess the risk associated with individual providers, prioritise the direction of their regulatory activities, and contribute to the information shared with providers (including in annual provider briefings):
- 1.8 implement effective assessment systems
- 1.1 have appropriate training and assessment strategies and practices, including amount of Train
- 1.2 appropriate amount of training is provided, taking account of the skills, knowledge and experience of the learner and mode of delivery
- 3.1 AQF certification is issued only where the learner has been assessed as meeting training product requirements
- 1.3 have the resources to provide quality training and assessment – this includes sufficient trainers and assessors, learning resources, support services, equipment and facilities.
Mr Patterson highlighted misconceptions existing in the broader community in relation to ASQA imposing regulatory sanctions for minor administrative or technical non-compliance issues, saying “all of ASQA’s regulatory activity, including audits, investigations and reviews of specific training areas or products is informed by our assessment of risk that RTOs or potential RTOs represent.”
Mr Patterson emphasised that ASQA “does not conduct regulatory activity unless we have determined a potential threat to quality.”
In light of recent concerns in relation to how International students completing VET in Australia are educated, ASQA noted that work will continue to monitor the capacity of trainers and assessors, and implement the recommendations of ASQA’s recent strategic review into international education.
The strategy also sets out the second phase of the ‘Recognising and supporting quality initiative’, which seeks to improve how quality VET delivery is recognised and support providers through enhanced engagement and advice.