What is a PDSAT and why does it matter for your ESFA audit?


PDSAT stands for Provider Data Self-Assessment Toolkit. It’s a free tool that analyses learning delivery data to help training providers spot potential issues and get prepared for their full audit.

PDSAT works by running checks on your Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data. It takes the results and produces reports, allowing training providers to pinpoint and investigate potential issues in their ILR data.

While it’s not compulsory, the Education, Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA) recommends that providers use it regularly:

“Using PDSAT is not mandatory, but we strongly recommend that training providers use it as part of their routine data cleansing, as well as assisting in preparation for assurance visits.”

The importance of PDSAT reports

In our recent webinar about compliance for ESFA audits, Rupert Crossland, Director of Audit and Compliance at Professional Assessment, looked at PDSAT.

Rupert explained that the ESFA will review PDSAT reports, so it’s worth running it on a monthly basis.

“I really would do it every month,” he said. “Certainly if you wait until you’re audited or wait until the end of the year, you’re not going to have time to investigate and resolve queries.”

Responding to PDSAT queries

So what do you do with what you find? In some cases, you can amend the data to clear the issue and prevent it appearing in the ESFA audit.

In other circumstances, the issue will require evidence of why the data is correct. Collect this regularly so you’re ready to present it in an audit.

When you run your PDSAT, it’s not uncommon to get a long list of issues returned. “It can be overwhelming if you’re not ready for an audit,” warns Rupert. That’s why you should learn about how PDSAT works in advance and run checks regularly.

He explains that sample sizes tend to be between five and 20. “If they find errors in that sample, they’ll ask you to carry out a 100% check of the entries on that report which the auditor will then test.”

Be ready for auditors not to see the bigger picture in certain PDSAT reports. As Rupert explains, even the auditors can get lost in the details because there are so many scenarios that can arise.

Getting started with PDSAT

Using the PDSAT reporting tool may seem daunting at first, but it’s fairly straightforward and there’s lots of guidance out there to help.

We recommend that you use the following resources to get started:

Looking for more advice and support for your next ESFA audit? Learn more about how Bud removes the stress of ESFA audits or book a demo of Bud now.