Conflict of interest

Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance to staff and any other relevant individuals on handling possible conflicts of interest that may arise as a result of their roles as tutor, assessors, invigilators, internal quality assurers or assessment-related administrators. This policy applies to all staff or other individuals whenever they interact or potentially interact with any of the Service assessment-related functions.

This policy:

– Defines what is meant by conflict of interest in these circumstances
– Describes the role of conflict of interest in the context of working for the Service in an assessment-related function
– Sets out which conflicts can be managed and how they should be managed, and those which are considered unmanageable, and therefore cannot be allowed
– Illustrates potential conflict of interest situations, some of which are not obvious.

The most important feature of the policy is the instruction that individuals should always disclose an activity if there is any doubt about whether it represents a conflict of interest.

The policy describes how and when such disclosures should be made, that is, as soon as potential or actual conflict is discovered. This should be done by completion of a report at the time (i.e. before the activity is carried out). The policy describes the procedures that should be followed and how to handle potential conflicts of interest.

Introduction

Continuing Education Service is an organisation with a reputation for the delivery of high quality teaching, learning and assessment leading to a variety of qualifications.
Working in partnership with a range of awarding bodies, the Service is required to identify and manage all conflicts of interest that might detrimentally impact on standards of, or public confidence in, the Service’s educational and training provision or the reputations of partner awarding bodies.

The Service’s status as a publicly funded body makes it of considerable public interest. Consequently, it is important that all individuals and organisations with which the Service has dealings are confident that all of its assessment-related operations are free from improper influence.

Scope

– This policy applies to staff and other individuals who interact or potentially interact with the assessment-related work of the Service. This includes individuals with all aspects of devising, setting, marking, administering, invigilating; internally quality assuring or any other activity connected with the assessment of learners, and associated supporting resources and services.
– The individual falling within the scope of this policy include full-time, part-time, casual workers and any associated staff including external examiners.
– The content of the policy cannot cover every potential conflict and must be interpreted in the light of the particular circumstances of each case.

What is a Conflict of Interest?

A simple definition of conflict of interest is a situation in which an individual or organisation has competing interests or loyalties. Conflicts of interest can arise in a variety of circumstances, for example:

– An individual whose personal interests conflict with his/her professional position
– An individual scheduled to assess, invigilate or internally quality assuring the work of friends, relatives, or colleagues undertaking CPD within the Service.
– When one part of the Service follows a procedure that conflicts with the organisation’s official policy and the requirements of its awarding bodies.

Roles, responsibilities and associated procedures to be followed in the event of an actual or perceived conflict of interest

All relevant staff have a responsibility to be aware of the potential for a conflict of interest. It is possible that staff working in any assessment-related role might encounter potential conflicts of interest from time to time.

Such situations must be carefully managed to ensure that any conflict of interest does not detrimentally impact on standards of, or public confidence in, the Service’s provision or the reputations of partner awarding bodies.

Staff can find themselves in potential conflicts of interest situations because they are not clear what the correct, auditable processes and procedures are.

1. The Conflict of Interest policy is a requirement of the induction of all new tutors, assessors, invigilators, internal verifiers and assessment-related administration staff.
2. Any day-to-day concerns identified by an individual should be raised with their line manager.
3. Where there is a notified potential conflict of interest for an individual, the individual and line manager must document this carefully, together with those activities that must be avoided to prevent the Service or any of its partner awarding bodies being brought into disrepute. The document (a Disclosure of a Conflict of Interest (Assessment Related Form) should be signed by both the individual and the line manager, brought to the attention of the Advanced Practitioner Curriculum and forwarded to the Programme Manager, where such documents will be retained for audit purposes.
4. Any concerns that the individual feels are urgent should be communicated immediately to the Programme Manager in confidence. It is an individual’s right to raise concerns relating to conflict of interest directly with the Programme Manager and to receive a response to their concerns.
5. As and when the situation arises, tutors, assessors, invigilators, internal quality assurers and administrators of assessment-related materials must notify their line managers of any learners enrolled at the Service who are family members, other relatives or close friends.
6. As and when the situation arises that staff become learners at the Service, the tutor of the class should complete a Disclosure of Conflict of Interest (Assessment Related) Form as above.

Handling Potential Conflicts of Interest in Specific Areas and Functions

The following are examples of conflicts or potential conflicts of interest from different areas of the Service. These notes are intended to be helpful to staff in making decisions that relate to potential conflict of interest situations in their day-to-day work.

– If a teaching member of staff is involved in any way with the development of a secure assessment for either internal or external use, they cannot make use of the knowledge of that assessment in any teaching or learning activity
– The appointment of all tutors, assessors, invigilators, internal quality assurers and assessment-related administrative staff is not made against published criteria and on a transparent basis
– Tutors, assessors, invigilators, internal quality assurers and assessment related administrators do not take responsibility to ensure the security and confidentiality of all assessment instruments, including examination papers.
– Learning and teaching materials are based on live examination of other assessment materials (although they can make use of past examination of other assessment materials)
– A member of staff is asked to assess, invigilate or internal quality assurer the work of a learner who is a family member, other relative, close friend or colleague undertaking CPD within the Service
– A member of staff makes assessment materials available to individuals, whether or not learners of the Service, when not specifically tasked with assessing them as part of a timetabled activity.
– In the case of any situation where a tutor or assessor carries out assessment on behalf of Continuing Education Service in an organisation where they are also employed, they must adhere to the relevant assessment strategy and the quality standards set by the Service.

In all cases, tutors/assessors should complete the Disclosure of Conflict of Interest Form