Quality Assurance

Donegal Education and Training Board is committed to developing a culture of quality, and ensuring that students participating in a programme of further education and training enjoy a quality assured learning experience.

Quality Assurance in Further Education and Training

Donegal ETB is committed to developing its new quality assurance policies and procedures in line with its strategic goals and priorities as outlined in its Statement of Strategy  and in line with the requirements of QQI’s Core Statutory QA Guidelines.

Legacy Quality Assurance Policies and Procedures

Following the amalgamation of Donegal VEC and the former SOLAS training centres in Letterkenny and Gweedore, Donegal ETB is currently operating under two legacy quality assurance agreements with QQI, the independent State agency responsible for promoting quality and accountability in education and training services in Ireland (for further information, see www.qqi.ie ).

The resource documents associated with the legacy QA Agreements are listed below for information purposes:

QQI published QQI’s Core Statutory QA Guidelines. in April 2016, followed by the Sector Specific Guidelines for ETBs in May 2017. Donegal ETB is now working on developing integrated quality assurance system for the organisation.

For QA policies and procedures specific to each Donegal ETB Further Education and Training centres under the legacy agreements, please contact the centre in question directly. Contact details are available here.

Revised Quality Assurance Policies and Procedures

The development of a comprehensive suite of common quality assurance policies and procedures for Donegal ETB will be a long-term project; as new common policies and procedures are developed and approved by the appropriate governance structure, they will be published on this page and will supersede the existing individual policies and procedures which are currently available.

Governance and Management of Quality Assurance

FET Service Reporting and Management Structures

Donegal ETB’s FET service uses an executive management structure. Strategic direction is currently provided primarily by the FET Senior Management team who in turn report into to the Director of FET. The diagram to the right represents the current management and governance structure within the ETB’s Further Education and Training service.

The structure allows for the executive decision making capacity of the FET Senior Management Team to report into the Chief Executive/Director’s Forum. In turn, the Chief Executive reports to the ETB board to update on developments within FET along with other matters.

QA Governance Structure and Terms of Reference

Developments are currently in progress to develop new structures, policies, and procedures to manage the governance of quality assurance, in line with the requirements of QQI’s Core and Sectoral QA Guidelines. The current QA governance structure of Donegal ETB’s FET Service is outlined in the diagram to the right. Membership of the QA governance groups, including the QA Subcommittee, Programme Subcommittee and Quality Council, along with outline terms of reference for each of the groups, is available here.

Programme Development

Presently Donegal ETB Centres or FET provision categories wishing to develop a programme/module may make a proposal to develop to the FET Senior Management Team, where consideration is given as to whether the development is in line with identified organisational goals and national strategies. The development, approval and submission of new programmes, courses and qualifications are prepared and submitted through the Programme Sub-Committee which in turn reviews submissions and recommends these new or changed programmes and courses to the Quality Council for approval.

Donegal ETB is committed to enhancing this programme development model in line with the recently published QQI programme validation criteria and will be published when available

Quality Assurance in Assessment

Donegal ETB has a shared vision for teaching and learning as outlined in its Statement of Strategy.

Donegal ETB delivers QQI programmes leading to major awards under the Common Awards System (CAS), as well as delivering a number of non-QQI awards, such as City & Guilds, ITEC/VTCT, CompTIA, Accounting Technicians Ireland, Microsoft, ICS Skills and others.

QQI Assessment Processes

Students are provided with briefs appropriate to the NFQ level, for all assessments they are asked to undertake. These include details of the assessment task at hand, criteria & marking schemes, and deadlines where appropriate. It is the student’s responsibility to complete assessments and demonstrate their achievement of learning.  All students are expected to sign statements of authenticity with respect to their assessments. Formative and summative feedback, which occurs during and after assessment tasks, are crucial elements of effective teaching and learning within Donegal ETB.

The integrity of assessment processes is monitored through the Internal Verification and External Authentication Processes, and approved by the Certification Approval Board.

Internal verification (IV) procedures check that assessments have been undertaken in a quality assured fashion: the appropriate assessment instruments have been used, student details and results correctly entered, and for a sample of students, marks are checked.

The External Authentication (EA) system is a core element of ensuring the quality and integrity of the assessment processes. It is the role of the External Authenticator to review the IV report to ensure that assessment has been undertaken in a quality assured manner, to review the students’ assessments to ensure that they have been assessed in a fair and consistent manner, and to authenticate that the grades given are in line with the national standards for that level. Donegal ETB operates a directory of External Authenticators selected from the ETBI directory of EAs.

Oversight of the assessment process is provided within the QA Governance and Management structure by the Certification Approval Board (CAB) and the Quality Council (QC). Reports detailing the outcomes from the Internal Verification (IV) and External Authentication (EA) processes, as well as grade outcomes, are considered at a CAB meeting before the approval of results. A summary report is developed by the Training Standard Officers on behalf of the CAB. This is then presented to the Quality Council.

The FET service’s robust assessment processes outlined above facilitate the fair and consistent assessment of students and support academic decision-making which reflects the interests of students and the maintenance of standards.

Assessment Appeals

Students have the right to appeal their results should they not agree with the assessment judgement that has been made. Students may have their assessment scripts reviewed by appeals assessors who are independent of Donegal ETB. In the event that their appeal is upheld, Donegal ETB informs the relevant awarding body of the amended grade.

Assessment Regulations

Our FET Service is committed to the integrity of assessment and recognises that responsibility for the integrity of the assessment process lies with both staff and students. This area has been identified as a priority for the development of revised integrated policies and procedures in line with the QQI Core Statutory QA Guidelines. Significant progress has been made and a draft integrated Fair and Consistent Assessment of Learners policy has been developed with a range of procedures in progress as part of the integrated QA system.

Quality Assuring the Student Journey

For detailed information regarding policies and procedures relating to the learning experience in a particular centre please contact the centre directly.  As new policies and procedures are developed that are common to all Donegal ETB centres, they will be published here.

Becoming a student with Donegal ETB: our admissions processes

Donegal ETB is committed to developing Access, Transfer and Progression policy which is common to all of its FET services and centres.  

Typically, prospective students attend an interview to assess their suitability for the course for which they are applying. The admissions interview is usually conducted by the course coordinator and supplemented by the guidance and recruitment service. The purpose of the interview is to assess whether the student meets the entry criteria for the course where these exist, or to facilitate the student to find the course most suitable for their needs. Other, course specific, information is given to students upon entry to the course.

It is expected that any students seeking to access a particular course would have the knowledge, skills and competencies at the level of the National Framework of Qualifications www.nfq-qqi.ie indicated in the prospectus for access on to that programme. Where the student does not have a major award at the level indicated for access, life skills or work experience may be taken into account, as long as they possess the skills which would be required to allow them to participate successfully in the course.  It is the responsibility of the course coordinator or other identified staff member, to determine that a prospective student has the knowledge, skill and competence to successfully participate on the course.

Donegal ETB is piloting the use of a basic literacy tool during the interview process to assist in identifying any literacy supports required.

Please contact the centre directly for further information about admissions procedures and course-specific admissions requirements.

Donegal ETB does not currently have agreed quality assured processes to support access to a programme through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) however students can be exempt from certain programme/course modules if they possess accredited prior learning and records of such.

On starting a course in Donegal ETB, students have an induction session/s in which they receive general information about the centre, as well as course-specific information such as modules to be covered, the course calendar and timetable, assessments and assessment deadlines. A FET programme specific student handbook outlines attendance policies and procedures, assessment policies and procedures, supports available to students, Learner code of conduct and expected behaviour, complaints procedure and other relevant information.

The Learning Experience and the Environment

Donegal ETB’s FET Service is committed to teaching and learning that is student-centred, flexible, and inclusive, in accordance with the ethos and values of the organisation.

Students on a course will be respected and treated in an equitable manner, in line with Donegal ETB’s commitment to equality. Centres organise activities to support a positive learning environment through activities such as field trips or guest speakers.

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)

Donegal ETB is committed to providing an ongoing and enhanced investment in technology-enhanced learning to support innovative teaching and learning practices. Actions include supporting the creation and sharing of digital resources for use in the classroom, use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) to support the learning experience, building staff capacity through CPD, expanding the ICT infrastructure and developing TEL Communities of Practice and networks.

Quality Assuring Work Experience and Work Placement

At Donegal ETB we believe that work experience is a valuable part of the learning experience, allowing students to get a taste of the realities of working in their chosen career. Therefore, most courses leading to a major award include a Work Experience or Work Practice module with a compulsory work placement.

Donegal ETB is committed to ensuring that the work-based learning environments that students experience as part of their work placements are appropriate.

Student Complaints

Where students have complaints, they are expected, in the first instance, to address them with the staff member concerned. If still unsatisfied, they may take their concerns to the course coordinator, and thereafter may appeal to the FET senior management team.

Donegal ETB has an assessment appeals policy in place and students are informed of the procedure for appealing an assessment result during induction.

Where students have complaints of a non-academic nature that are escalated to ETB-level, these are handled by the Donegal ETB’s Corporate Services Department.

Giving Feedback on the Learning Experience

Student feedback is an essential element to the life cycle of a course within Donegal ETB. Feedback is sought for most courses through mid-term and end-of-term evaluations, and the information gathered can be used to address issues arising throughout the course.  It also informs future iterations of the course, (e.g. with respect to module choice etc.), as well as new course development. In addition, students can raise any concerns or feedback they may have about the course, with either the course teacher, tutor or instructor, or course coordinator at any time between the formal feedback opportunities.

The first Donegal ETB FET Service Student Voice Forum was introduced in February 2020 as a means of collecting and collating feedback from students across the service. This will be an annual event, used to inform the self-evaluation, monitoring and review process.

Student Supports

Supports available to students on Donegal ETB programmes may be accessed through guidance counsellors, support workers, FET centre managers, programme coordinators, teachers, tutors or instructors.

The Adult Guidance and Information Service offers impartial and confidential information, advice, guidance and counselling on the educational options that are available both within Donegal ETB and with other education providers.

Recently the Student Supports and Welfare group has been formed to oversee and steer the development and provision of student supports, student welfare protocols and social inclusion measures within Donegal ETB’s FET Service.

An outline of the framework of student supports across the FET service is available in the diagram below and in the link here

Guidance for Learners

Guidance is available, where feasible, to learners with respect to progression opportunities. Within the Adult Education Service, the Adult Guidance and Information Service provides support and guidance to learners on a range of programmes, while in further education colleges and centres, guidance counsellors may be available to advise learners. In other FET centres, course coordinators or teachers offer similar support if possible. In Youthreach centres, dedicated guidance staff, known as Advocates, provide individual career path planning and guidance.

Care for Learners

Within each centre, and for each course, a designated person, such as the course coordinator, guidance counsellor, learner advisor, course tutor, assistant manager or other named person will be available to address any concerns of an academic nature that the learner may have.

Writing Resources

Academic writing can be very rewarding but it can also present a real challenge. It is recommended that students on Donegal ETB programmes make use of the Academic Writing Handbook and the Referencing Handbook.

Donegal ETB Staff Recruitment and Professional Development

Donegal ETB is committed to fairness, equality and transparency in all staff recruitment processes. Posts are sanctioned by the Department of Education or SOLAS and filled through a formal recruitment and selection process.

The professional competence of Donegal ETB’s staff is central to the FET Service’s ability to respond to the needs of students and employers. Recognising the strong link between the development of its staff and the quality of its education and training, Donegal ETB makes a range of professional development opportunities available to staff members. These enable them to enhance their skills, update competencies and utilise modern teaching methods, such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL). During the COVID-19 pandemic, training in Technology-Enhanced Learning was provided to support staff members engaged in Emergency Remote Teaching.

Information Management

Donegal ETB has data protection policies in place to comply with current legislation. Access to databases is by named and authorised personnel only for the purposes of entering data in local centres and for reporting as appropriate at local centres or centrally within Donegal ETB.

Self-evaluation and Monitoring of Quality Assurance

Programmes are reviewed at the end-of-course evaluation at FET provision programme level. These reviews provide an opportunity to review teaching and learning, facilities and resources, assessment,  and other aspects of course delivery.

Currently, courses are monitored at centre-level with mid-course and end-of-course evaluations. This allows issues to be identified quickly and to be acted upon, and further supports to be put into place, should these be necessary. Internal Verification processes provide an opportunity to monitor the assessment processes, while the External Authentication and the Certification Approval Board (CAB) meeting provide opportunities for the monitoring of results and issues arising from that particular assessment period.

CAB reports are reviewed in collated form by the QASS and QA Governance groups, which facilitates the identification of long-term trends.


Self-Evaluation Report, QQI Review Report and Quality Action Plan

Following publication of the Inaugural Review report, and one year after the submission of its Quality Assurance (QA) review action plan, Donegal ETB has submitted a follow up report to QQI on progress against the plan, and how it is addressing the outcomes of the review. The report identifies the range of strategic and logistical developments and decisions that have occurred within Donegal ETB since the publication of the review report and addresses each of the key findings and recommendations that the reviewers presented.

Engagement with Stakeholders and Other Bodies

Community Collaboration

Donegal ETB engages extensively with community groups, Family Resource Centres, Pobal centres and Partnership Companies in provision of non-accredited and accredited courses at all levels within the  literacy service;  community-based BTEI programme and a  grants-based community education service to ensure “bottom-up” approach in encouraging participation among learners who do not normally engage in educational activities.

Department of Social Protection (DSP) Collaboration

Donegal ETB meets regularly with DSP to ensure the needs of the county are being met and these meetings regularly inform provision.

Enterprise Engagement

Enterprise Engagement Working Group: The Enterprise Engagement Working Group has been established to build and maintain relationships with employers in the region and was seen as an engine to drive feedback from employers on the ETB’s programmes and services. It was created to dovetail also with the work being undertaken by Regional Skills Forum. An important initiative that has been implemented arising from this relationship has been the launch of the ‘Employers portal’- https://www.donegaletb.ie/employers/ on the ETB website where employers can feed into the ETB thus creating key stakeholder engagement.

TraineeshipsDonegal ETB have engaged extensively with both the engineering and hospitality industries in the development of new traineeship programmes in these areas. These programmes are developed in collaboration with local employers to meet the demands of the skills supply in these areas while also giving the students the opportunity to complete work based learning.

Atlantic Technological University

With the memorandum of understanding in place between the ATU (Letterkenny Institute of Technology) and the ETB one of the key strategic focuses of this MOU is to build progression pathways to HE from the FET programmes and build closer linkages between both organisations. The ETB is currently working on analysis of various pathways to HE for entry from Level 5 & 6 programmes and to see how we can help to create more maps and paths into the LYIT from the ETB.

Statutory Agencies

With the memorandum of understanding in place between Letterkenny Institute of Technology and the ETB one of the key strategic focuses of this MOU is to build progression pathways to HE from the FET programmes and build closer linkages between both organisations. The ETB is currently working on analysis of various pathways to HE for entry from Level 5 & 6 programmes and to see how we can help to create more maps and paths into the LYIT from the ETB.

National Collaborations

National collaborations and Quality Assurance sectoral projects coordinated by ETBI will help ETB’s satisfy the comprehensive nature of the new Core and Sector Specific Guidelines include a number of projects that will help form a framework for QA procedures initially in relation to Section 7 of the Core guidelines.

Awarding Bodies

Contractual relationships also exist with other awarding bodies and testing/assessment systems that are outside of the Irish jurisdiction. These include City & Guilds, ITEC, Microsoft, Pearson Vue, ERS, OFTEC.

Inaugural Review of Quality Assurance in ETBs

The Inaugural Review of Quality Assurance in Ireland’s 16 Education and Training Boards commenced early in 2021. Donegal ETB’s review took place remotely from Monday 24th May to Friday 28th May.

As part of the Review, external reviewers (national and international) were selected for their expertise in one or more specific areasproviding perspectivefrom education & training, quality assurance, learner voice, community, and industry. 

Undergoing the Review process has helped to further encourage the development of the quality culture that exists within Donegal ETB, while also promoting transparency and public awareness.


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