Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from Brooke Townsley, Senior Lecturer Interpreting and Translation, Middlesex University

1. In mid-December 2010, I was contacted by Mr David Joseph from Applied Language Solutions to ask if I could come to the ALS offices in Oldham to review the part of their proposed bid to the Ministry of Justice regarding interpreter assessment and training. As a Middlesex University consultant, I attended Applied Language Solutions on 20 January 2011 for the afternoon. My brief was to inspect their plans for the screening of interpreters and their interpreting skills and to give my candid evaluation of its validity or otherwise.

2. On occasion through the following months, I was contacted by Mr David Joseph from ALS with further questions and clarifications on our discussions regarding the proposed interpreter assessment instrument on 20 January. At some point in April, to the best of my recollection, David Joseph contacted me again to tell me that ALS was in a good position to win the MoJ contract and, if they did, would Middlesex University be prepared to design and implement the interpreter assessment/screening programme, as detailed in their bid. This request I passed on to my (then) Head of Department, Howard Chilvers, Associate Dean for Business Development in the Arts and Education Faculty, who indicated that the University would be interested in the work.

3. A meeting between Howard Chilvers, David Joseph and Richard Loyer from ALS, myself and the Acting Head of Programmes (Translation and Interpreting) Edgar Schroder from Middlesex University took place on 9th May 2011 at the Trent Park campus of the University. At this meeting ALS outlined what they needed and a verbal agreement for Middlesex University to provide the specialist input required to design and run the tests was agreed.

4. 9 May—6 July: Everything remained on hold waiting for the MoJ decision on the bidding process. My instructions from Howard Chilvers were not to expend any staff time on the project until it was clear whether ALS had been successful or not. Once the University was informed by ALS that they had been selected as the successful bidder, work on designing an interpreter assessment instrument started.

5. The assessment test that the translation and interpreting team at Middlesex University developed for ALS is a Quality Assessment (QA) test. It performed the function of checking that an interpreter was able to perform at the level of interpreting competence indicated by their qualifications and required by the demands of the CJS. It was not a stand-alone qualification nor was it intended nor designed to qualify interpreters. It was specifically designed as an in-service quality check for interpreters who already held an accredited interpreting qualification. It was not designed or intended to replace or invalidate the full professional qualifications that interpreters already held. It was designed to be supplementary to those and to confirm that the levels of competency indicated by those qualifications were still valid.

6. The content of the oral test was designed to diagnose an interpreter’s level of competence in:

the simultaneous interpretation of legal discourse from English into their Other Language;

the consecutive interpretation of the Other Language into English; and

There were also appended to the test a short set of Situational Response type questions to be answered in written English. This addition was insisted upon by ALS.

7. The interpreting performances captured by the QA test were assessed by assessors commissioned by Middlesex University using an assessment matrix provided to them by the University.

8. Middlesex University also set up and ran assessment centres on behalf of ALS at the Hendon Campus of Middlesex University, Aston University in Birmingham and University of Central Lancashire in Preston on selected weekends in October and November 2011. The on-line interpreter quality check test was administered at these centres. The interpreting performances captured at these test centres were then checked by assessors engaged by Middlesex University, using an assessment form provided to them, and the results entered on to a database and made available to ALS.

Working with ALS proved to be difficult. Middlesex University decided to terminate the agreement with ALS dated 10 October 2011; on the 3 January 2012 Middlesex University and ALS formally agreed to suspend their relationship under that agreement and the final signature from ALS on the agreement to suspect the relationship was received on 17 February 2012. ALS did receive a EULA from Middlesex University to use the software designed for the quality check process themselves and carry out their own assessments in house. This EULA was signed and returned by ALS on 1 March 2012.

September 2012

Prepared 5th February 2013