- Malpractice is defined as any deliberate activity, neglect, default or other practice that compromises the integrity of the learning and assessment process, and/or the validity of certificates. Malpractice may include a range of issues from the failure to maintain appropriate records or systems to the deliberate falsification of records in order to claim certificates. Failure to deal with identified issues may in itself constitute malpractice.Maladministration is any activity, neglect, default or other practice that results in WSBF or the learner(s) not complying with the specified requirements for delivery of a qualification(s) and as set out in the relevant codes of practice where applicable.
The groups which need to be included
- The procedure to investigate cases of Suspected Malpractice and Maladministration will include the following groups within WSBF:
- Learner malpractice.
- WSBF (including agency) staff malpractice.
- Partner and subcontractor malpractice
Examples of Malpractice
- (This is an example list and does not limit what may be defined as malpractice or maladministration):-
- Failure to meet internal or external award approval requirements.
- Failure to advise Quality of any changes with regard to the delivery of the award.
- Failure to comply with procedures for learner registration and certification.
- Failure to follow agreed procedures for the assessment or internal verification (IQA).
- Claiming certification for non-active learners.
- Claiming for incorrect units or awards.
- Claiming for fictitious learners.
- Claiming a certificate for learners who have not undergone appropriate assessment or completed the assessment process.
- Failure to keep examination material and mark schemes secure.
- Offering excessive amounts of help in producing assessed work.
- Using falsified witness testimonies.
- Allowing learners to include evidence that assessors know is not the learners own work.
- Changing / falsifying records or certificates.
- Claiming certification without the agreement of the External Verifier (EQA).
- The fundamental principle of investigations is to conduct them in a fair, reasonable and legal manner, ensuring that all relevant evidence is considered without bias. The process of investigation will be conducted in accordance with regard to:
- Retention of evidence.
- Evidence storage.
- Conclusions reached.
- • Actions.
Sources of information that alert WSBF to instances of suspected malpractice
- Allegations of suspected malpractice / maladministration may be brought to WSBF’s attention via various sources. For example:
- WSBF’s own quality assurance systems or monitoring may identify that a area / individual is not adhering to the quality assurance procedures.
- Individuals and areas may report instances of malpractice themselves.
- Learners may have a legitimate complaint about a WSBF’s personnel or practices that he or she raises with the college.
- An employer or parent (on behalf of the learner) may report an incident to WSBF.
- Whistleblowers may report allegations of malpractice to WSBF. Their identity must not normally be disclosed without their permission
- Anonymous allegations may be reported to WSBF; however, WSBF can only act on the allegation if it has sufficient details to identify the individual or area. WSBF will log the information in case other similar allegations.
- Allegations are reported and trends emerge that give cause for concern.
- External agencies such as sector skills councils, funding agencies may notify WSBF of cases and may also request awarding organisations to investigate.
- Is the qualification a licence to practice? All such cases must be reported to the relevant awarding organisation.
- Is the qualification or the area at risk?
- Is the complainant likely to report the incident to the awarding organisation and inform them that WSBF has not investigated or will not investigate their complaint?
- Is the case likely to attract negative media or public interest?
- Does the scale of the associated risk warrant an investigation?
Prevention of Malpractice
- In all instances it is preferable to have in place systems and processes which will prevent instances of malpractice arising. All staff must remain vigilant to potential malpractice and have a responsibility to be diligent and alert to identify any occurrence.Examples of ways in which malpractice can be prevented are: (This is an example list and does not limit the ways in which malpractice can be prevented)
- Plagiarism software
- Maintenance of a risk register
- Identification of risks in strategic and action plans
- Internal verification
- Following policies and procedures
- Following internal and external regulations
- Working to agreed timescales
- Documenting and logging ‘official’ discussions, advice and consultations
- Monitoring stakeholder expectations
- Good communications which are effective and clear
- Being accurate and truthful
- Course approval process
- Staff training and development
- Appropriately qualified staff
- Student and staff induction
- Clear handbooks
- Assessment strategies which reduce malpractice
- Internal Quality Review
- Authentication of learner work
- Monitor and audit on-line resources and systems
Conducting the Investigation
- Should malpractice or maladministration be suspected oe alleged, then the following process will be employed for carrying out investigations. It is intended that the stages involve generic key activities; however, not all these would be implemented in every case. WSBF may wish to discuss the proposed investigation strategy in the first instance with the relevant awarding organisation to ensure that all necessary activities will be carried out.The objective of the investigation is to establish the facts relating to allegations / complaints in order to determine whether any irregularities have occurred. WSBF will undertake an initial evaluation, including a risk assessment, to establish the scope of the matter. Thereafter WSBF will:
- Identify the cause of the irregularities and those involved.
- Establish the scale of the irregularities.
- Evaluate any action already taken by the centre.
- Determine whether remedial action is required to reduce the risk to current learners and to preserve the integrity of the qualification.
- Ascertain whether any action is required in respect of certificates already issued.
- Obtain evidence to support any sanctions to be applied to the area, and/or to members of staff, in accordance with the external agencies’ own internal procedures.
- Identify any patterns or trends.
Briefing and record keeping
- Anyone involved in the conduct of an investigation should have a clear brief and understanding of their role.
- All investigators must maintain an auditable record of every action during an investigation to demonstrate that they have acted appropriately.
- WSBF will provide secure storage for all material associated with an investigation in case of subsequent legal challenge.
Establishing the facts
- Investigators will review the evidence and associated documentation, including awarding body guidance on the delivery of the qualifications and related quality assurance arrangements. Issues to be determined:
- what occurred (nature of malpractice/substance of the allegations)
- why the incident occurred
- who was involved in the incident
- when it occurred
- where it occurred – there may be more than one location
- what action, if any, WSBF has taken.
Procedure for the Investigation
- All internal policies and procedures are in place to initiate and conduct investigations. These include a system for the logging and tracking of activities and supporting evidence, including dealing with whistle blowers and anonymous allegations.
- Ensure as required by Awarding bodies, the regulatory authorities and funding agencies have access to different sources of information and it may be appropriate to share this to enable data comparison in order to obtain a full overview of the situation.
- The investigator appointed by WSBF must be independent of normal or day-to-day. working relationships within the area or individual under investigation.
- Inform the individual(s) of the issues and of the possible consequences.
- Inform the individual(s) of the process and appeals rights.
- Give the individual the opportunity to respond.
- investigate in a fair and equitable manner.
- Inform relevant external agencies of any malpractice or attempted acts of malpractice, which may have an impact on them.
- Penalties should be appropriate to the nature of the malpractice under review
- Gross misconduct will refer to learner and staff disciplinary procedures.
- Interviews should be conducted in accordance with the relevant codes for interviewing within the United Kingdom. Thorough preparation is needed prior to any interview. Interviews should include prepared questions; responses should be recorded.Interviewers may find it helpful to use the ‘PEACE’ technique:
o plan and prepare
o engage and explain
- Face-to-face interviews should normally be conducted by two people with one person primarily acting as interviewer and the other as note-taker.
- Those being interviewed should be informed that they may have another individual of their choosing present and that they do not have to answer questions. These arrangements aim to protect the rights of all individuals.
- In some cases, learners or employers may need to be contacted for facts and information. This may be done via face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, by post or by email. Whichever method is used, the investigator will have a set of prepared questions. The responses will be recorded in writing as part of confirmation of the evidence. Investigators should log the number of attempts made to contact an individual.
- Wherever possible documentary evidence should be authenticated by reference to the author; this may include asking learners, staff and others to confirm handwriting, dates and signatures.
- Receipts should be given for any documentation removed from an area.
- Independent expert opinion may be obtained from subject specialists about a learner’s evidence and/or from a specialist organisation such as a forensic examiner, who may comment on the validity of documents.
- Most investigations will necessitate accessing material that is deemed confidential to the individuals or area providing it. In many instances it will be important that the evidence or information is original. If original records cannot be retained, it may be necessary to photocopy / scan the original and record the copy as authentic. All material collected as part of an investigation must be kept secure and not normally disclosed to a third party.
- All records and original documentation concerning a completed investigation will be retained for a period of not less than five years. If an investigation leads to invalidation of certificates, or criminal or civil prosecution, all records and original documentation relating to the case will be retained until the case and any appeals have been heard and for five years thereafter.
Evidence of storage
- WSBF will provide secure storage for all material associated with an investigation in case of subsequent legal challenge. Integrity and continuity of evidence will be maintained.
- Once the investigators have gathered and reviewed all relevant evidence, a decision is made on the outcome. Conclusions will be based on established evidence. A course of proposed action will be identified, agreed, implemented and monitored.
- A draft report is prepared and factual accuracy agreement obtained. The final report is submitted to the Senior Management Team.
- In order to ensure that WSBF has acted appropriately in conducting investigations, final reports are provided on all investigations notified to the Senior Management Team. The length and style of such reports will reflect the nature, scale and outcome of the investigation.
- The regulatory authorities require centres to notify awarding bodies of all cases where they find that certificates may be invalid. In such cases awarding bodies and regulatory authorities will agree appropriate action.
- As part of the quality assurance procedures WSBF will monitor investigations. This will include the monitoring of actual investigations and/or reviewing the capacity to conduct investigations over time.
- Any resultant action plan is implemented and monitored appropriately.
- Ofqual provides guidance to centres and awarding organisations who find it necessary to investigate allegations of significant malpractice or maladministration by those involved in the delivery of qualifications. The principles apply to all regulated qualifications.
- Malpractice guidance for awarding bodies