About The National Network of Assessment Centres – Historical Context
NNAC was formed in April 2004 from Assessment Centres which had been members of the National Federation of Access Centres (NFAC) and independent centres, many of whom were managed by ex-NFAC Assessors and Assessment Centre Managers.
In 1983 several Further and Higher Educational Institutions were offering support and guidance to students with disabilities and their staff in the use of information technology in order to access the curriculum.
It was decided to establish a national network that could share their experiences and provide a more cohesive service.
Hereward College became the Administrative Centre and in 1986 the National Federation of Access Centres (NFAC) was established.
The growth of NFAC
The membership steadily grew with a spread of centres across England, Scotland and Wales. Initially a grant from the UK government provided a pool of equipment which enabled the professional teams to offer assessments as well as training on many different aspects of assistive technology.
Since then this original equipment has become obsolete. All centres now have to provide and fund their own equipment and research into assistive technology. along with a burgeoning number of other study strategies. Many of the original NFAC members and assessors have continued to offer assessments and training programmes.
By 1989, NFAC had 39 members and was funded by central government to set up a DSA assessment service for students applying for the Disabled Students’ Allowances. NFAC members had long been recognised as the main providers of specialist assessments to help establish a student’s entitlement to specialist funding in Further and Higher Education. In addition, some centres undertook assessments for Employment Services and other interested parties and also carried out training in information technology.
Following the SKILL review of the DSA process and subsequent round table groups including NADO, NFAC, SKILL, LEAs and DfES, the Disabled Students’ Allowances Quality Assurance Group (DSA-QAG), which included representatives of the round table group members was set up. NFAC then transferred over to the National Network of Assessment Centres and continued to take an active part in DSA-QAG and other sector engagement.
Cultural and legislative changes have resulted in integration of all learners into mainstream education. An increasing number of disabled students are entering Further (FE) and Higher (HE) Education. The NFAC had been at the forefront of facilitating access to learning opportunities for disabled students and NNAC has carried on this work.
Each assessment or training session is about giving an individual the chance to experience the latest and most appropriate study techniques and aids specific to their needs. It is a chance for all to experiment with various types of technology, knowing the advice will be professional and unbiased.
NNAC aims to ensure that its members provide a quality assessment service and that we maintain a high standard of continual professional development for all staff involved in the work of Assessment Centres, despite the demise of DSA-QAG in 2019. We are constantly evaluating and adopting new strategies, responding to changes in teaching and learning methods.
DfE and SLC have outlined plans to modernise/reform the DSA process in order to provide a more efficient and cost-effective assessment service to disabled students entering, or already studying at higher education level. The Chair of NNAC and other Exec members continue to represent NNAC on relevant sector and stakeholder meetings in order to convey the views of its membership and to ensure that all students continue to be entitled to an independent, objective Assessment of Need.
NNAC also retains its core quality values and in 2020, became a company limited by guarantee. Through our Articles of Association and Terms of Membership, plus the development of additional quality standards, NNAC Ltd aim to ensure that all of our members continue to offer students a high quality assessment service and that we retain our good standing within the sector. We are also using our expertise to lead and inform the sector regarding DSA initiatives and feel that NNAC as an organisation, is in an excellent position to tender for the delivery of assessment services in England and Wales.
The Chair of NNAC and other Exec members are involved with relevant sector and stakeholder meetings to represent the view of its membership.
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