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NZSA training evaluation result raises questions

FEATURES: NZ Security, June 2016

NZSA's CEO, Gary MorrisonNZSA's CEO, Gary MorrisonIn an NZQA Report of External Evaluation and Review of February 2015, NZSA’s Training Division received a ‘Not Yet Confident in educational performance’ result. It’s a surprising result for an organisation that describes itself as having “taken a leading role in raising the quality of training being offered across the industry.”

But before the alarm bells start ringing, it’s worthwhile noting that the result was based on the performance of the NZSA’s Training Division during 2014. EERs occur around once every four years, so it’s a long time between reviews.

One would assume that things have moved on since then and that issues have been addressed, but the result nevertheless poses questions of an organisation accredited for delivering Mandatory Training (unit standards 27360, 27361, 27364), National Certificate in Security Level 2 (LCP1, LCP2), National Certificate in Security Level 3.


NZQA external evaluation and review

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is responsible for managing the NZ Qualifications Framework in order to ensure that kiwi qualifications are regarded as credible and robust. As part of this, the Authority is responsible for ensuring that tertiary education organisations continue to comply with “statutory policies and criteria after initial programme approval and accreditation and/or registration is granted.” It achieves this via the external evaluation and review (EER) regime.

According to the NZQA’s website, each EER “provides an independent judgement of the educational performance and capability in self-assessment of all non-university tertiary education organisations (TEOs).” By ‘educational performance’, what NZQA means is “the extent to which the educational outcomes achieved by the TEO represent quality and value for learners and the wider community.”

NZQA reports its judgements as one of four levels of confidence: Highly Confident, Confident, Not Yet Confident and Not Confident. So, how is it that the NZSA Training Division received its ‘Not Yet Confident in educational performance’ result, and what does it mean? NZ Security Magazine spoke with NZSA CEO Gary Morrison to find out.


EER findings valid… but no longer valid?

“The NZSA places a very high focus on raising standards across all areas of the security industry and including the content and delivery of training to industry,” said Mr Morrison. “We do accept that having the NZSA Training Division receive an assessment of “not yet confident in educational performance” from the EER is not a good look, however we stress that the assessment was conducted in early 2015 and using data from 2014, and the issues raised at the time have all been addressed.”

In relation to unit standard 27364, the EER noted NZQA’s concern over “‘questions marked as correct but the answer is incorrect' and vice versa” – instances that the NZSA’s own moderation processes had identified. Although it is to NZSA’s credit that it had itself picked up these errors, their existence clearly raised question marks.

According to NZSA, the inaccuracies can be attributed to having to contract temporary instructors/facilitators to meet the massive surge in demand for mandatory training in 2014. “The NZSA has always been transparent with its moderation processes and had become aware through its own moderation that several assessors employed on a temporary contract basis in 2014 were not consistently meeting required standards”, stated Mr Morrison.

The NZSA provided further coaching and training to these assessors, but eventually terminated their contracts due to ongoing performance concerns. According to Mr Morrison, since 2015 all assessments have either been conducted at a senior management level or subjected to a 100 percent verification process by senior staff.

“We also note that the Skills Organisation (who NZSA provides training on behalf of) has stated within an external post-assessment moderation visit "Your assessors are following best assessment practice and the NZSA has robust internal quality assurance procedures in place,” he said.


No time to manage training?

In its findings, NZQA noted that NZSA training directors/managers “were heavily involved in frontline training delivery and lacked the time, capacity and resources to manage and reflect on training management and operations.”

This, it suggested, was the likely reason behind areas of concern that included the NZSA’s lack of a policy to support priority trainees as identified by the government, the abovementioned assessment errors, and that the association was “yet to enhance its information systems and further harness the value of the qualitative data it collects.”

Mr Morrison doesn’t agree with this finding. “Whilst the NZSA does not necessarily accept the validity of this statement,” he stated, “subsequent structural changes within the organisation have ensured that this is no longer a concern.”

The structural changes he refers to include the full integration of the NZSA Training Division into the organisation from a previous model that had it operating “as a stand alone entity within the Association and without the ability to call upon other resources as and when required.”


Addressing EER recommendations

In conclusion, the EER presented a number of recommendations, including that the NZSA consider how it can contribute (and demonstrate its contribution) to the government’s Tertiary Education Strategy, especially in relation to priority trainees [Maori, Pasifika] which is required of all training providers regardless of their source of funding.

Mr Morrison stressed that the NZSA has always acknowledged and supported the government’s Tertiary Education Strategy and especially in relation to its dealings with priority trainees. “As an Association we acknowledge Maori as an official language and we provide materials and assessment in Maori on request,” he pointed out “and we ensure that our programmes are reflective of New Zealand’s cultural and ethnic diversity.”

He also confirmed that the NZSA had addressed the EER’s recommendation that the association “explore ways to analyse its quantitative data, identify trends and use the findings to inform continuous improvement decisions.” In 2015, he said the NZSA implemented a new student management software package that has enabled it “to produce a range of reports that support the identification of trends and continuous business improvement.”

Invited to make general comment on the issue, Mr Morrison told NZ Security Magazine that at both a CEO and board level, the NZSA’s leadership has “utmost confidence in the current state of the NZSA Training Division and in our ability to achieve an improved assessment in future external evaluation reviews.”

“Over the last eighteen months we have made significant changes to the structure of the training division and implemented system and process changes that have provided improved quality and business controls. We are also very confident that ongoing Skills Organisation moderation assessments will continue to identify that we operate to best practice standards and that our processes and procedures are robust and appropriate.”

To be fair, the EER identified a whole bunch of things that the NZSA was doing well. The report, in reality, is littered with “Adequate” and “Good” ratings, with a good deal of positive comments throughout.

“As the peak body of the security industry,” states the report, “NZSA is leading a lot of changes in the sector, particularly in advocating a cultural change so that training and qualifications are valued. This is not a simple mission. The association has good representation on the Targeted Review of Qualifications and appears well prepared for designing new programmes that lead to the replacement New Zealand qualifications when the time arrives.”

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