My name is Nick Ayton and since September 2017, I have been the project lead for delivering the end-to-end process for Qualification Achievement Rates (QARs). My role entails gathering policy requirements and helping translate these into technical requirements, preparing for publishing the QARs and the communications around these.
We know we had issues with QARs in 2015 to 2016 when we made some significant changes to the calculations, so we were keen to improve the processes and accuracy for 2016 to 2017.
One of the key things I have learned is that this is an exceedingly complex calculation and it is one that many providers find challenging; therefore communications and documentation need to be as clear as possible.
One of the first things that we did was to create a simple landing page that linked QARs, minimum standards and key information together in one place to make it easy to find documents.
Then we started sending out more communications throughout the year, focussing on some of the key issues that providers have previously reported to us about QARs. We mainly used our monthly Inform newsletter and added hyperlinks to these from the landing page. We hope these proved useful and we continue to use Inform and Update regularly to get key messages out to the sector. If there are other, more suitable routes to get these through, then please let us know.
We ran a survey in April after we published the final QARs in March. Thank you to those who contributed, as this helps us greatly to understand your issues and concerns. The feedback was positive but there is always room for improvement so please do keep your feedback coming so we can learn and improve further.
Some of the key things that came through are:
- You want the data earlier in-year
One of the key requirements you asked for, from not only the survey but also on-going feedback throughout the process, was to get an earlier sight of the data. Some of you raised the concern that you could not change your data after R14 where there were obvious data issues or errors. Because of this, we have published an in-year QAR that will resolve these issues, as you still have time to update your 2017 to 2018 ILR data before the final R14 hard close. We have also published an in-year QAR guidance document to answer some common questions that we will update as new common questions arise. To improve your final QARs, see our key issues article that details common data issues in QARs and the Funding monitoring reports that identify issues that affect your QARs.
- You want the final QAR earlier
We are often asked why we do not publish the QAR until March. The main reason is that we use the R04 data we collect in December to match in late achievements to the final R14 data from the year before, and the R04 collection also feeds into the timely QAR calculation. We then need to process this data and match it into the QAR dataset before being thoroughly tested – as the calculations are highly complex. We release the provisional QARs in January once the testing is complete.
During the provisional window (which closes in February), we continue to test and review your feedback on how we implemented the calculation. When the window closes and we have reviewed all the feedback, if we need to make changes we do so and test these, before starting the process for final publication.
As you can see, the timescales are tight and necessary to ensure we get the data right and accurate.
- Accessing the Hub and dashboard
We know there were some issues with accessing the data last year. Some was because providers did not have the correct roles set up and the service desk were able to direct them to the guidance we produced for these.
The other issue was because of a security setting that affected a handful of providers. We have worked on this process this year to ensure the correct access is available when we release the data.
I hope you have found some of this information useful. If you have any further comments you would like to make about any of the steps in the QAR process, please contact the service desk at SDE.Servicedesk@education.gov.uk and ask for the service desk to pass to the ‘ESFA Business Operations QAR’ group.
If you are feeding back a specific data query, please remember to attach the completed data query form. The query form is important because this ensures you have reviewed your data correctly and saves significant time for both you and us in trying to identify the key details of your query and the precise records that may be affected.