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Ofqual report welcomed

There are good reasons to think that the qualifications in the SIA-badged security sector are particularly at risk from malpractice, says a report by the exams regulator Ofqual.

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, said: “The public expect that those who gain qualifications to work in the private security industry have been rigorously trained and assessed. Our thorough review of this sector gave us a number of causes for concern. The actions we have taken re-emphasise the responsibilities awarding organisations have in qualification delivery. Those responsibilities should never be underestimated, and are especially important where the risks of failure could expose the public to potential harm.”

Of 97,527 certificates issued by awarding organisations for people to go on to renew or apply for SIA licences, most – 63,082 – were for door supervision, and another 14,458 were for a related upskilling qualification (covering new requirements such as door staff being aware of the risks to vulnerable people). In other words, 79.5 of those qualifications were to do with door staff, which compares with the next largest category, public space CCTV operators, and 12,247, or 12.6 per cent of the whole. Reflecting that bulk of qualifications being for doors, the awarding body with the most certificates issued was HABC (Highfield), which offers door exam courses.

The report points out that if malpractice occurs and leads to people getting the qualification who are not occupationally competent, there could be damage to standards and risk to public safety. However, the training centres doing the training often don’t have their classrooms inspected; and the SIA does not quality-assure training and centres. Ofqual summed up that it judges there’s ‘a risk of a significant level of further, undetected malpractice’; whether trainees passing off other people’s exam answers as theirs, as they don’t have a command of English, or trainers (who might not be qualified) filling in the answers for the trainees. Ofqual says it found ‘inadequate responses by some awarding organisations when malpractice was discovered’. The regulator also says that it will ‘continue to pay close attention to the sector’.

The SIA gets an average of 50 malpractice allegations per year. Awarding organisations reported to Ofqual over 60 allegations of malpractice or maladministration for this industry between July 2013 and October 2015, which is higher than for most other types of qualifications. In 30 cases, the resulting investigation led to the withdrawal of centres’ approval. These number however are tiny compared with total numbers of qualifications, running into the hundreds of thousands.

As for stopping more wrong-doing, Ofqual says that it will explore with the SIA ‘how we can strengthen controls and put in place systematic arrangements to share intelligence’. The report notes that the SIA is already changing its arrangements with awarding organisations to include more quality requirements. Ofqual acknowledges that other qualifications and sectors may face similar risks.

Comment

SIA Chief Executive, Alan Clamp, pictured, said: “We welcome this report. It is good to see Ofqual taking a close look at awarding bodies offering vocational qualifications. After a lengthy investigation, Ofqual has identified some areas for improvement for awarding bodies and will be following these up with further checks later this year. As noted in the report, the SIA already imposes a number of additional requirements on awarding bodies over and above those required by Ofqual. We will work closely with Ofqual to see if these can be further improved to provide additional reassurances about qualifications in this sector.”

To read the 28-page Ofqual report, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/licence-linked-qualifications-used-in-private-security.


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