Validation meeting and outcomes
There will normally be a private meeting of the Validation Panel, then a first meeting with the Qualification Design Team, a second private meeting of the Validation Panel, then a final meeting with the Qualification Design Team. This process will be strengthened if all members of the Validation Panel have completed the validation checklists and noted any issues they wish to raise and this should be highlighted at any training meeting.
The validation meeting is a formal peer review, the aim of which is to look objectively at the proposal and, if appropriate, recommend changes to enhance the proposed award. The QDT should remember that the panel have been asked to bring their experience in education or related vocational areas. Any recommendations and conditions proposed by the Validation Panel should not be taken personally.
Welcome and introductions
The chairperson should open the meeting by inviting members of the validation panel and the representatives from the QDT to introduce themselves. The chairperson should then provide an overview of the purpose and format of the meeting.
Initial private meeting of the validation panel
Once introductions have been made, the representatives from the QDT should be shown to the break out room to enable the validation panel to hold a private meeting to discuss and collate issues and/or concerns about the Group Award specification. At this stage, panel members should confine themselves to identifying areas of concern which they wish to discuss more fully with representatives from the QDT rather than trying to reach any conclusions about changes they may wish to make.
The chairperson will collate issues/concerns under the section headings in the validation checklist (120 KB), and allocate issues/concerns to individual panel members who will lead the discussion with the QDT representatives. It is essential that all members of the validation panel contribute to a full discussion of the points to be addressed. It is equally important that the representatives from the QDT are given the opportunity to comment on the issues/concerns raised by the validation panel and expand on any information contained in the Group Award specification.
During the private meeting, the panel can re-arrange the draft programme (34 KB) for the day if they feel this is necessary. In this case, any changes should be communicated to the representatives from the QDT.
The chairperson should endeavour to ensure that the programme is kept on schedule, but this should not be allowed to interfere with a full discussion of the qualification.
Formal validation meeting with the representatives from the QDT
Once the validation panel have compiled the issues to be raised with the representatives from the QDT, they should be invited to re-join the validation panel for the formal validation meeting.
At the start of the meeting, the chairperson will inform the representatives from the QDT of any changes to the programme for the day and of the principal items for discussion. Further amendments to the programme may be made in the light of issues raised during the discussion.
All questions directed to the representatives from the QDT should be open-ended to encourage wide-ranging but focused discussion. The focus of the discussion will be the evaluation of the qualification against SQA's validation criteria (30 KB). It is important to remember that validation is about ensuring that the qualification, and where applicable, Graded Unit specification(s), broadly meet SQA’s validation criteria, and not about a centre's ability to offer the qualification — that is dealt with through a separate process called "approval".
It should be noted however that, with the exception of Graded Units, the Units will have been validated or be in the process of being validated prior to the Group Award validation and therefore validation panel members will only be expected to comment on their suitability for inclusion in the Group Award framework. It is also important to remember that the Group Award framework has been devised after consultation with a wide and representative group to confirm its suitability in meeting the qualification aims prior to writing either the Units or the Group Award specification. Therefore, while helpful suggestions for improvements will always be welcome, the purpose of validation is to confirm (or otherwise) that SQA's validation criteria have been broadly met. Detailed suggestions for re-writing or changes to the qualification framework should not form part of any formal conditions for validation.
Once all the issues/concerns raised by the validation panel have been discussed the representatives from the QDT should be asked to return to the break out room to enable the validation panel to discuss and agree their validation decision.
Second private meeting of the validation panel
After the formal meeting with representatives from the QDT, the validation panel will have an opportunity for a second private meeting to decide whether or not all of the issues/concerns discussed with the representatives from the QDT have been satisfactorily addressed.
If the validation panel members are not convinced that the Group Award specification addresses all of SQA's validation criteria (30 KB), or if they think that the evidence supporting the need for the qualification is unclear or insufficient, the chairperson will agree the broad conditions that he/she wishes to see addressed before Group Award validation. It is very important that he/she ensures that the validation panel members do not attempt to re-write any aspect of the Group Award specification.
The representatives from the QDT should be invited to re-join the validation panel where the chairperson will inform them of the validation decision.
Having considered all the evidence provided in the Group Award specification and the subsequent discussion with representatives from the QDT, the validation panel will reach one of two possible decisions about the qualification:
- not validated until conditions have been met
validated — where the decision is validated, this means that the panel are satisfied that the qualification meets SQA's validation criterion and can now be operationalised to enable centres to offer it.
not validated until conditions have been met — where the decision is not to validate until conditions have been met, all the conditions must be satisfied before the qualification will be validated, ie before any centre can be given approval to offer it.
Important note: any conditions imposed by the validation panel should concern rectifying significant failures to satisfy the validation criteria (30 KB). More minor issues should be dealt with by recommendations. The reason(s) for imposing conditions should be explained in the validation report (73 KB) under the appropriate heading.
If the validation panel wishes to set conditions on the validation of a qualification, it is important to recognise that these will need to be fully satisfied before the qualification can be validated. The clarity of these conditions and the reasonableness of the timescales proposed should be discussed with the representatives from the QDT before finalisation.
Any conditions imposed by the validation panel should concern rectifying significant failures to satisfy the validation criteria (30 KB). More minor issues should be dealt with by recommendations. The reason(s) for imposing conditions should be explained in the validation report (73 KB) under the appropriate heading.
Lifting validation conditions
Meeting the conditions is the responsibility of the QDT. The validation panel should not attempt to re-write the Group Award specification, but should specify the changes that have to be made or the further development that must be undertaken before the qualification can be validated.
The validation panel should also agree the mechanism and estimated timescale for lifting the conditions with the QDT. This might mean a revised Group Award specification being considered by:
- the SQA representative only
- the SQA representative and convener
Whatever the mechanism selected, it is important that the entire panel is in agreement and that it is specified in the 44 Group Award validation report (73 KB).
The validation panel may wish to make recommendations for the future development of the qualification. Recommendations are points that arenot essential to the integrity of the Group Award but are suggestions for clarification or further information that might be incorporated into the final validated Group Award specification. They might include information on integration of assessment, flexibility of delivery or other aspects of learning, teaching and assessment.
Unlike conditions, these do not have to be met before the qualification can be validated.
Appeals against validation outcomes
A QDT may lodge an appeal if it feels that the validation panel has failed to conduct the validation meeting in an objective way and in accordance with SQA’s validation criteria (30 KB). Appeals will only be considered if it can be shown that SQA’s validation criteria have been misinterpreted or that the procedures followed were not consistent with those laid down in the Guide to validation for validation panel members (302 KB).
The sole ground for appeal is that SQA's decision, based on all the evidence available to SQA at the time, was wrong.
A QDT can appeal by writing to the SQA SQA Lead Officer whose portfolio the qualification belongs to within ten working days to agree a time to discuss the matter, If, after this discussion, the QDT are not satisfied, the Head of Centre can raise an appeal. However, before making the appeal, all parties are encouraged to discuss the matter informally to seek a solution without recourse to a formal hearing. If there is to be a hearing, the chairperson of the validation panel will be invited to attend.
The validation report
After the meeting, a validation report (73 KB) must be completed and sent to SQA’s Qualifications Portfolio Management Team, normally within one week.
If the meeting is arranged and hosted by:
- SQA, it will be the responsibility of the SQA Officer to complete and return the validation report
- a centre, it will be the responsibility of the centre representative to complete and return the validation report.
In both cases, the validation report must be signed by the chairperson and countersigned by the SQA Officer to indicate agreement with its contents.
Once signed, the person leading the development should arrange for a copy of the validation report to be sent to all validation panel members. All matters pertaining to the meeting and its outcome should be treated in confidence. If, on receipt of the validation report, a panel member has questions concerning any part of it, he/she should contact the person leading the development without delay.
If your centre has devolved authority for the validation of SQA qualifications, you should produce a validation report which should be retained by the centre for SQA Quality Audits. This will usually be completed by the centre representative and must be countersigned by the Convenor. You may tailor the SQA validation report for your centre.