Page updated Friday 27 March 2020
QQI is aware that the evolving situation in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic is having a very real impact on the work and lives of our education and training providers, and students.
We would like to assure you that we are following the advice of the public health and education authorities in relation to the crisis and we are putting in place measures to ensure continuity of service to our stakeholders.
RESOURCES FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROVIDERS
QQI is working with partners across the education and training sector to support and provide leadership for FET and HE providers in their efforts to maintain the integrity, quality and standards of the Irish education and training system, at this time of unprecedented challenge.
Key goals are to assure learners that the quality of the qualification they receive in 2020 will be maintained and to provide clarity in relation to guidance concerning alternative arrangements for teaching, learning and especially assessment for the remainder of the academic year 2019/20.
Details of existing and new supports and arrangements for the tertiary education system in relation to assessment are outlined in Building Confidence: supports and arrangements for the tertiary education system.
This document has been endorsed by key stakeholders and representative bodies including:
· Union of Students of Ireland (USI)
· Aontas, the National Adult Learner Organisation
· Irish Universities Association (IUA)
· The Technological Higher Education Association (THEA)
· Higher Education Colleges Association (HECA)
· Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI)
· National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (NFETL)
· Technological University Dublin
· RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences
· Teachers' Union of Ireland
This statement of confidence is supported by Guiding principles for alternative assessments (devised in response to the COVID-19 emergency restrictions).
Providers of programmes leading to QQI awards
In addition to the two documents above, education and training providers offering programmes that lead to QQI awards should refer to Measures to mitigate impact of COVID-19 pandemic on programmes leading to QQI awards. These outline the measures fast-tracked by QQI's governance processes to enable providers of programmes leading to QQI awards to implement changes to modes of programme delivery and assessment:
· Temporary extension of providers' scope of provision and related amendments to validated programmes
· Extension of period of enrolment for validated programmes
· Temporary modification of rules for awarding in Common Awards System
NB These Covid-19 provisions are valid for the calendar year 2020. They will be reviewed before the end of 2020 and updated or extended as required.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON COVID-19
Q: Where can I find out the latest information in relation to the national response to COVID-19?
A: The HSE is the authoritative source of health information and advice on the situation regarding the virus in Ireland. The latest updates can be found here.
Regular updates specifically aimed at the education and training sector can be found at the Department of Education and Skills website.
The Government has also published Ireland's National Action Plan in response to COVID-19 which aims to minimise the health, social and economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Other useful sources of information:
Department of Justice and Equality
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
PROGRAMME DELIVERY AND ASSESSMENT
Q: Now that universities, schools and colleges have been instructed to close, can we explore alternative options to classes, lectures or exam hall assessments?
A: We are aware that some of our providers have concerns about programme delivery and assessment following the news that all educational institutions are to close.
We advise you to now implement your local contingency plans to cover programme delivery and assessment. While these plans may involve changes to approved programme schedules, you must ensure that you maintain full academic governance and quality assurance principles; and remain within your approved scope of provision.
It is important that you send QQI a document setting out the overarching contingency plans/arrangements you are implementing (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q: Do these changes to programme delivery extend to online provision? Even where a provider has not had QA approval or programme validation for blended learning?
A: Yes. In order to minimise the impact on teaching and learning, you should continue to plan lessons and, where possible, provide online resources for students or online lessons where schools are equipped to do so. Schools are asked to be conscious of students that may not have access to online facilities and to consider this actively in their response.
Any such contingency arrangements should be subject to normal provider quality assurance and governance. QQI should be notified of the contingency plan but it will not be necessary for QQI to approve each provider's plan. We will acknowledge receipt of and note your plan.
Q: We don't have the facilities to provide online tuition. Any other suggestions?
A: If you do not have the resources to deliver teaching online, consideration could be given to deferring classes or lectures or extending the semester into the summer period. As outlined above, these changes should only be made as part of a considered contingency plan.
Q: What about assessments and examinations?
A: The same broad message applies, but it is even more important here that providers maintain quality assurance of the assessment process where it is changed from the validated programme, as the integrity of the awards is critical.
For example, any change from an end-of-year exam to a different form of assessment will need to be planned carefully with the following factors being paramount:
The same learning outcomes need to be assessed.
Academic integrity/cheating checks need to be in place where a switch is made from a controlled assessment e.g. exam, to a less controlled assessment e.g. online submission of assignments etc.
Any changes need to be approved by your Academic Council or Quality Committee in consultation with external examiner where appropriate.
Q: And what is the advice about work placements?
A: It will probably be necessary to postpone work placements as many host employers may not be in a position to take or maintain learners if, as is expected, stricter controls are imposed on employers and others. Where placement is a necessary requirement for professional qualification, e.g. teaching, nursing etc, queries should be directed to the relevant regulator.
If you are a provider and you have questions about programme delivery and assessment, contact email@example.com.
CERTIFICATION AND CAO
Q: I am a provider planning to submit learners for April certification periods. Are there any changes to the certification timetable?
A: QQI will keep to the published timetable. Submission date (12 April), availability of Final Statements of Results (16 April) and Certificate issue date (7 May) remain the same. We can do this because of the accessibility and functionality of the QBS system. As the situation evolves, however, the date on which we issue certificates may have to change to offer greater flexibility to providers.
Q: What do I say to learners about receiving their certificates to prove they have a qualification?
A: Learners can be assured that the Final Statement of Results you issue is proof that they have achieved the award. You can download the Final Statement of Results from QBS on 16 April 2020.
Q: And beyond the April certification period? The June certification period? CAO and college access?
A: The June Certification period is the most significant of the year. Over 60,000 learners will be awarded QQI awards. As the situation evolves, QQI will be responsive to the needs of all providers in the best interests of their learners. This may include adding additional certification periods. We are aware that the context of our providers are different and we will provide as much information as we can at the appropriate time. The best way to contact us about all certification issues is through QHelp.
Q: As a provider, can I do anything now that will help me manage the work relating to certification of my learners?
A: QBS is always open and the more data you can enter about your learners at this stage, the better. This will give QQI time to resolve any data conflicts/invalid entries you might have as quickly as possible. You can access QBS remotely and also add another phone for authentication purposes to give you more flexibility.
Q: I am a learner hoping to go to college using my Level 5/Level 6 QQI qualification and I am worried about what will happen now?
A: Every year the CAO and QQI process results of learners using their QQI qualification in their CAO application for the Zero and subsequent round offers. This year will be the same. Around 12,000 learners have already notified the CAO that they applying for a college place using their QQI qualification.
We will ensure that all scored results are securely transferred to CAO to process college applications. If the assessments you are undertaking to complete your QQI qualification are delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions, by increasing the number of certification periods QQI will ensure that all scored results are securely transferred to CAO.
Keep in touch with your college and www.qqi.ie and www.cao.ie for updates.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE SCHOOLS
Q: Does the instruction from the Government to close schools from 6pm on Thursday 12th March apply to the English Language sector?
A: The closure of schools, preschools and further and higher education settings for a period until 29 March in support of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 applies to all English language education providers as well.
In order to minimise the impact on teaching and learning all schools will be asked to continue to plan lessons and, where possible, provide online resources for students or online lessons where schools are equipped to do so. Schools are asked to be conscious of students that may not have access to online facilities and to consider this actively in their response.
According to the latest statement from INIS, where an English language school has closed due to Government advice regarding COVID-19, all international students will be considered to have met their attendance requirement for the shutdown period. All other rules will remain in place and students will be required to renew their registrations as usual.
In light of the current extenuating circumstances, QQI/ACELS has decided to delay the invoicing of the ACELS annual renewal fee until the 1st of May 2020.
There will be no school inspections for the foreseeable future.
Some useful sources of further information:
Marketing English in Ireland (MEI)
Progressive College Network (PCN)
The Department of Education & Skills and QQI are actively engaging with key stakeholders to ensure that issues of primary concern to international students are addressed as a priority. The Covid-19 Working Group for the English language education sector, which includes representatives of relevant government departments, students and English language education providers, will continue to meet on an ongoing basis to provide further support to students and providers in this sector.
Q: I am an English language student and my visa expires soon. What is my immigration status after my VISA expires?
A: The Department of Justice and Equality has recently confirmed that immigration permissions which expire between 20 March and 20 May 2020 will be automatically renewed for a period of 2 months. This renewal is on the same basis as existing permissions and the same conditions will continue to apply.
Further information on immigration-related issues can be found here.
Q: I am an international student who has lost my job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How can I support myself financially now?
A: Students who have lost their job as a result of the pandemic are eligible to apply for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which is administered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Further details can be found here.
Q: Where can I access official information about COVID-19 in different languages?
A: Posters can be downloaded and printed here.
International learners can find further information on the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) website.
PROGRAMME VALIDATION AND RE-ENGAGEMENT
Q: QQI has arranged a site visit for a panel to visit my provider. Will this go ahead?
A: Unless otherwise notified, site visits will be postponed for the foreseeable future. Providers and panel members will be contacted directly.
HIGHER EDUCATION QUALITY REVIEWS
Q: Our institution was preparing for a review team visit over the coming weeks. Will this visit go ahead?
A: Irish higher education institutions have primary responsibility for reviewing and improving their own quality and QQI carries out external reviews of these processes through its CINNTE review cycle (2017-2023). Our expert review panels were due to conduct site visits to Waterford IT, IT Carlow and the University of Limerick over the coming weeks.
These visits have been postponed and will be rescheduled when the institutions are permitted to re-open.
If you have questions about HE quality reviews, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
ETB INAUGURAL REVIEWS
Q: The restrictions will impact on our ability to consult with stakeholders as part of our self-evaluation process and we may not be able to meet the submission date outlined in the published schedule. Will this date be changed?
A: Given the timelines for submission of self-evaluations, we will continue to monitor how the current situation develops before invoking contingency measures. In the meantime, ETBs should act in accordance with the official advice from the HSE and Department of Education and Skills. QQI will engage with ETBs in the coming weeks to monitor the impacts and determine any changes required to the review schedule.
If you have questions about the ETB Inaugural Reviews, contact ETBM-R@qqi.ie.