A number of changes and improvements have been made to the AMTRA SQP exam system, with a new team at Harper Adams University working alongside the Animal Medicines Training and Regulatory Authority (AMTRA) to modernise and streamline the process.
Building on their 32-year partnership, AMTRA and Harper Adams have been working closely together, meeting regularly to implement a number of individual, but cumulatively significant improvements to the exam system.
The arrival of a new team earlier this year – course manager George Aspey, who joined Harper Adams in May 2022, and began working with AMTRA in February 2023, and oversees the exam modules and delivery, and interim head of department Jane Thomas – has accelerated the process, breathing a fresh enthusiasm into improving the exam system.
Meanwhile, Helen Walker and Lisa Plant, who have been in position for 15 months, take care of the day-to-day running of the course and are the first point of contact for students and their employers.
In November 2020, brought on by the outbreak of Covid, AMTRA and Harper Adams worked together to bring the exam system online, only a few months after the qualification for farm and equine SQPs was increased to a level 5 qualification to better reflect the changing nature of the animal medicines industry.
This new online format helped to meet the growing requirement for qualified SQPs within registered premises, heightened further during the pandemic. But with new ways of working, there came several challenges for all involved, namely the online invigilation software, among others.
However, both teams involved have listened to feedback from candidates and employers, and have worked hard to bring key improvements and changes to the process. This includes the introduction of a systems access test, enabling students to preview the format of the exam and ensure their device is compatible, relieving the pressure that technology and exams can bring.
The introduction of ‘on-site’ exams are another recent addition; these will still take the format of an online exam, but the exam will take place on University equipment in University facilities, so may better suit those who are less computer-confident or who don’t have access to suitable equipment or internet connection. An available option twice per year, this will be incorporated with on-campus training and revision.
The closer working relationship between AMTRA and Harper Adams means a number of smaller administrative processes have been improved, which, in combination, means a more effective and streamlined administrative process, including a faster turnaround of exam results and a guaranteed response time of 72 hours or less for exam-related queries.
Mr Aspey said: “Our partnership with AMTRA is stronger and better than ever; we are listening to feedback and learning, with the aim to ‘do things better’ and improve the experience for candidates and employers alike.”
“The smaller details, such as making improvements to the employers’ pack, the availability of past papers and making the qualification journey much more transparent, have been noted.”
This too, includes finalising and publishing exam dates to the end of 2024, making it easier for employers to plan staff training and recruitment for staff.
AMTRA chief executive Stephen Dawson added: “Things are in a really good place now.
“We are working well together as a partnership, and we have been impressed by the determination and enthusiasm of the new team at Harper Adams.”
“We’re not resting on our laurels though – we’re continuing to make future provisions for candidates and employers, with the aim of meeting their needs and exceeding expectations.
“For example, we are reviewing the AMTRA training manual with input from Harper Adams, as well as many others, to ensure it’s future-proof and fit for purpose.”
Mr Dawson said the proportion of candidates successfully completing exams is now higher than before they went online, with far fewer problems, either technical or physical.
“The online exam system is now far more efficient and clearer than it has ever been, and the improved guidance means the overall understanding is far greater,” he added.
Looking ahead, AMTRA and Harper Adams are currently developing ideas for additional qualifications for the animal medicines industry, which could be stand-alone modules for SQP qualification, or form part of a Certificate or Diploma.