The autumn term is here again and I thought it may be helpful to focus on our centre approval process for general qualifications, and the National Centre Number Register. Many of you ask our team of field based staff about these processes in our interactions with you. We really value your questions and always relish the chance to try and answer them and provide you with some useful information!
So, to give a real insight into how it all works, I’ve asked Kathryn Tallack, Manager of our Centres, Data and Timetables Team, and the NCN Team, to contribute this blog post.
All centres interested in becoming approved OCR providers of general qualifications need to email my team at email@example.com. We’ll send you a registration pack and you just need to complete the forms and email or post them back to us. Either email to the address above or post to Centres Team, OCR, The Triangle Building, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge CB2 8EA. You need to fill in all these forms, including the ‘Are you ready’ checklist, whether you’re a brand new or an existing centre. Read on to find out why this is – and what the differences in the processes are…
If you’re a brand new centre:
If you’re a completely new centre, my team will check your application and we’ll let you know if we spot any potential issues with your application. In all cases we’ll contact you by phone or email if we do see anything and we’ll work with you to make sure your forms are complete and error-free before we send them on to the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). This means the whole process takes less time and, if you forget to include some details on your forms, we won’t ask you to fill everything in again from scratch.
If you’re a new, independent centre you need to have been trading for a minimum of 6 months before you can apply to us. Then, when we receive your application, we’ll ask our Finance Team to carry out a credit check. As long as this is successful our Centres team will check the rest of your application forms to make sure there are no errors or issues before sending to the JCQ.
Whether you’re an independent or a local authority centre, once the JCQ receives your completed application forms they will contact you directly to arrange an inspection visit. If any issues arise from this visit they can normally be resolved within your centre and you can send evidence to the JCQ. For example, if a cabinet needs a locking bar to be added for security reasons. You could simply have this fitted and then take pictures and send to the JCQ as evidence. In cases such as these it is unlikely a second JCQ visit will be needed and we’ll contact you to confirm you don’t need to fill in another form. On rare occasions, if a more serious concern is raised, a second visit will be carried out.
Once they are happy, the JCQ will let the centre, and my team, know the outcome of their visit. Based on the JCQ report, we’ll let you know whether your application has been approved and we’ll confirm this in an email to you. We’ll also send you a brand new centre number. You’ll be all set up on our systems and you can start making entries straightaway.
If you’re an existing centre:
If you’re already registered with another awarding body then you’ll already have a centre number. When we receive your application we’ll ask the JCQ to send us a copy of your latest centre inspection report. If an up to date report isn’t available then another pre-registration visit may need to take place. This is why we ask for the JCQ checklist and forms to be filled in by all applicant centres, both new and existing, because it saves time if this situation arises. My team can double-check your forms and send them straight on to the JCQ so very little time is wasted.
As with new centres, once we’ve heard from the JCQ and we’re satisfied all the criteria has been met, we’ll email you to confirm your application has been approved. In the majority of cases you’ll be able to keep your centre number; however, if you already offer just vocational qualifications then you may be given a new centre number which will enable you to offer general qualifications as well. It’s best to allow 28 days for this process to be completed. It may take less time but sometimes it can take a lot longer. Each centre is different and varied requirements can alter the length of time it takes for us to complete your registration.
If you’re interested in offering OCR qualifications, or have any questions about the approval process, just get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org . We’re always happy to help.
National Centre Number (NCN)
OCR operates the National Centre Number (NCN) register on behalf of all of the awarding bodies. So, when you register your details with the NCN, it’s so that all the exams boards can access your up-to-date contact details. It’s really important you complete the NCN survey each year – otherwise you might not receive important information about changes to qualifications and any other significant exam information.
Each autumn, we send out a National Centre Number (NCN) Centre Amendment form to all centres already on the NCN register. We send this by email on behalf of the JCQ and, for all existing centres, the form will contain the NCN details we have on file for your centre. If any of these have changed it’s really important you let us know. Just complete and return the forms with any amendments and we will update the NCN register so that all the awarding bodies can access the correct contact details for your centre.
Don’t forget that it’s a JCQ requirement to return this form! It’s an agreement you may be familiar with as you might have read it in the JCQ ICE booklet or in the General Regulations for Approved Centres.
During the year your centre details may change. For instance, a new exams officer may join, telephone numbers and addresses can change or centres can be merged. In all cases we really need you to contact the NCN team to let them know of any changes which are taking place. The best way to contact the NCN team is by email: email@example.com. Sometimes we may need to arrange a JCQ inspection visit, for example, if your address or secure storage facilities are changing so we will send you a copy of the ‘Are you ready’ checklist. Just return this to us and, once the JCQ have notified us that a successful visit has taken place, we’ll update all your details on the NCN.
A JCQ inspection isn’t required for all changes. So, if you just need us to amend your centre records for instance, telephone number or email address, then we only need you to send us notification in writing on centre-headed paper. This can be sent by fax to 01223 552646 or as an email attachment.
Helen O'Leary - Senior Customer Support Manager
Since joining Cambridge Assessment in 2004, Helen has worked in many areas of the organisation, starting her career with Cambridge International Examinations, before taking up her current role in 2011 as Senior Customer Support Manager for OCR.
Helen's role is extremely varied and she considers herself really lucky to get to meet many of OCR's customers, across a wide variety of educational contexts. She is passionate about great customer service and loves to hear about what OCR get right, as well as what could be improved, so that OCR can provide an enhanced customer experience.
In this blog series, you’ll hear from a variety of experts across OCR and the wider organisation. Helen hopes you find the information useful and if there’s anything that you would like to see featured then please do get in touch.