Since the Apprenticeship reforms, which moved frameworks to standards, training providers have been free to set their own curriculum. And this has placed a strong emphasis on the need for a more holistic view of the learner journey.

Your Curriculum can be planned with an increasingly personalised approach that considers the progressive experience and success of the learner across all stages of the learner journey.

Ofsted often use the framing question, “what is it like to be a learner at your organisation?” But it’s also important to ask, “what is it like to be a learner with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LDD) at your organisation?”

This focus is especially relevant within the context of developing effective learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) support strategies.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your learning support provision, LDD strategies and learner journeys, especially through the lens of an Ofsted education inspection, this article will highlight a few key opportunities and tools that can help.

We’ll assess the steps providers can take to ensure that they’re developing and delivering the very best provision for LDD learners, leading to more favourable Ofsted judgement and improved learning outcomes.


Collaborative Support Throughout the LDD Learning Process

To achieve the best results when strengthening your LDD strategies, it’s important to appreciate the need for collaborative support throughout the LDD learning process.

But what exactly is meant by “collaborative support” in this context? This phrase relates to the need for sustained input and engagement on the part of the learner themself, throughout all stages of their learner journey.

And how can this ongoing engagement be achieved?

Success hinges on the provider being able to help the learner achieve a better understanding of their individual learning requirements. Additionally, it’s important to create the desire and opportunity for LDD learners to learn more about the approaches to learning that are best suited to their unique needs, and to continue to learn more about their cognitive profile as they progress along the learner journey.

While it’s easy to assume that this kind of collaborative support relates to the earliest stages of the learner journey at initial assessment, it must be maintained across the entire education journey. Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework places a strong emphasis on this, assessing learner engagement and achievement at each stage of its Quality of Education judgement.

The EIF specifically references the need for providers to balance “intent, implementation and impact to reach a quality of education judgement.” In other words, Ofsted inspectors will not grade intent, implementation and impact separately and will instead reach a single graded judgement for the overall quality of education and training. For this reason alone, assuming that collaborative support should only be pursued in the initial assessment phase of curriculum delivery would be an error, but it is a critical stage that sets up the rest of the learning journey.


LDD Strategies: The Importance of Supporting Self-Disclosure

Recognising the fact that LDD learning requires a careful strategic approach, let’s investigate some of the key issues that LDD learners face when entering education and training.

And better yet, let’s explore some of the solutions that can help reduce or remove these barriers.

In an ideal world, all learners with a previous knowledge of LDD needs would feel comfortable and confident in expressing their learning needs to their providers. In reality, this is seldom the case, and more must be done to help create a more favourable environment for self-disclosure to happen.

Success here depends on understanding the factors that influence an individual’s willingness to disclose information relating to an LDD. They may have had a negative experience with self-disclosure in the past, perceive themselves to be “coping” without additional support, or simply not be aware of the extent of their LDD.

In an online Government-run survey, respondents were asked to indicate which factors they saw as influencing learners considering disclosure of an LDD. The most commonly cited factor was perceived negative stigma around LDD (with 32 of 37 respondents highlighting this reason).

What are you doing to positively encourage an open and inclusive environment within your organisation?

To encourage and support self-disclosure of LDD, it’s important to remember that for the individual, the learner journey begins long before enrolment.

By being exposed to more inclusive marketing campaigns and communications before enrolment and their initial assessment, LDD learners could start their journey with the perception of a more supportive and understanding environment.

Similarly, providers should carefully consider the administrative process that LDD learners have to go through in order to self-disclose. The need for effective data collection and management on the part of the provider should be balanced with empathy for the learners in question – convenience for one party might mean inaccessibility for the other.

You don’t want to make the process of self-disclosure hard or unpleasant for learners.

The issue of self-disclosure is especially relevant to those returning to education after a significant break from learning, for whom these preconceived notions may be particularly entrenched. They could easily feel that they have been “coping” for years outside of the education system and be unaware of the challenges this new environment might pose (or the transformative impact that personalised support might have).


The LDD Quality Assurance Framework In Education (QAF)

An optimised LDD learner journey goes far beyond collaborative support and self-disclosure. Ofsted education inspections expect to see properly structured support across all stages of the learner journey.

To assist with the development and delivery of a fully comprehensive LDD learning strategy, Cognassist has created an LDD Quality Assurance Framework with partners and stakeholders in the education sector. The framework is available on the Mesma platform. It methodically addresses assessment and action at each of the five key stages of the learner journey concerning your LDD strategies and provides a comprehensive means of self-assessing your learning support processes.

You can sign up for the full module for free. Each stage builds upon the last to provide a secure, optimised learning journey for LDD learners that allows for ongoing evolution and personalisation, as well as providing answers to key questions that Ofsted will be asking around your LDD provision.

The five pillars of effective support outlined in the QAF can be mapped to Ofsted judgements to ensure quality at every stage of a learner’s journey with you.


#1 Identify

Ofsted Quality of Education Assessment: Intent

At this critical starting point for the learner, providers are asked to assess their approach to identifying learning support needs. As previously covered, this will mean reviewing communications and marketing strategies to ensure they provide sufficient, accessible information, advice and guidance (IAG) for learners with an LDD. We need to create an environment that encourages selfdisclosure of LDDs.

Additionally, providers are encouraged to evaluate their existing Initial Assessment (IA) strategy. Does it provide sufficient rigour, resource and sophistication to identify learners with LDD at the initial assessment stage and throughout the learner journey?

Staff will also be challenged to consider how effectively initial assessment outcomes data is leveraged to inform and develop individual Needs Assessments. And in turn, how this insight is applied to reasonable adjustments and learner-centric planning.


#2 Plan

Ofsted Quality of Education Assessment: Intent

The second stage is informed by your initial assessment – the foundation of their LDD learner support and provision. The ‘Plan’ stage of the LDD QAF asks providers to consider their ability to turn the insight gained from the “Identify” stage into comprehensive and individualised Learning Support Plans.

Stakeholder-led planning will be encouraged to ensure that as well as all the needs of the learner being fully met. Key stakeholders in the learner’s journey should all be aware of the learner’s needs and reasonable adjustments, so they can help learners to understand and manage their LDD within a learning or working environment. Of course, the learner always needs to give permission for this information to be shared.

Similarly, a focus on embedded learner support helps to ensure that Learning Support Plans are properly applied into each learner’s programme. Meaning that outcomes are ambitious for all, and attainment is maximised to each learner’s full potential. The intended impact of your support and how it will encourage learner independence also need to be addressed at this stage.


#3 Support

Ofsted Quality of Education Assessment: Implementation

Within the Support stage of the LDD QAF, providers are asked to review the delivery of the Learning Support Plans that have been created.

How effectively does the provider deliver support and reasonable adjustments to learners with identified LDDs? And at the same time as how does this delivery tally with an ambitious curriculum, tailored to meet the individual needs of learners with LDD, that pushes the learner towards attaining their fullest potential?

Providers will be asked to check that the appropriate reasonable adjustments are put in place to remove any barriers for formative and summative assessment, including end-point assessment.

The last thing anyone wants is for all your hard work and support to fall through at the last moment, when a learner needs it most.


#4 Review

Ofsted Quality of Education Assessment: Implementation & Impact

In this penultimate stage, the focus falls upon the effectiveness of the ‘Plan’ and ‘Support’ phases to ensure that the reasonable adjustments and support are having the optimal impact.

Are you helping to minimise the disadvantage gap between LDD learners and their peers? Building on their strengths as well as supporting difficulties, and helping learners to manage or overcome their barriers to learning.

And this stage is not just about reviewing the learner’s progress. Providers will be asked to review the impact of their support, assess the learner-centric nature of these reviews, appraise the timely planning of reviews and look at how effectively they leverage them to determine the need for learning support to continue on a regular, monthly basis.


#5 Prepare & Progress

Ofsted Quality of Education Assessment: Impact

In the final stage of the framework, providers consider their preparation of learners to ensure they are as well-equipped as possible for summative assessment and the next steps towards their career and life development goals.

Your responsibility doesn’t end at Gateway.

This stage will include the need for any reasonable adjustments associated with assessment and initial assessment guidance for ongoing progression and the next stage of LDD learners’ lives. Having consistent support is hugely important.

The Quality Assurance Framework also provides the opportunity for assessment of leadership and management of the implemented learning support strategy. It’s ok to say when something isn’t working.

Staff who support learners should be constantly evaluating their own processes, including the effectiveness of how leaders and managers determine their strategy.

Your success relies on ensuring that all learners (including those with LDD / SEND and high needs, and disadvantaged learners) get the information, advice, guidance and support to achieve their next steps and progress to positive destinations.


Ofsted Education Inspections – How Does This Framework Fit In?

The effectiveness of the LDD Quality Assurance Framework is rooted in its close alignment with the approach taken by Ofsted education inspections. With clear overlapping objectives at each distinct stage of the learner journey, the QAF helps achieve high compliance to the expectations laid out in Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework.

As mapped above, each of the five QAF stages corresponds to one or more of the 3 “Is highlighted by Ofsted.

Each stage works in conjunction with the others within the framework, ensuring – exactly as Ofsted requires – that the focus on LDD provision is balanced across intent, implementation and impact. Showing commitment to LDD learners’ experiences and optimised outcomes across the full spectrum of their learner journey feeds into your Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policies.

Evidence forms a key part of the process here, and suggested sources and methods for the collection of this evidence are given at every stage of the QAF. This is something that Ofsted will actively be looking for within the context of an inspection. But beyond this significant benefit, having better access to reporting and tracking of this nature will inevitably support a better understanding of evolving learner needs, aiding future curriculum planning and personalisation.


Unlock The Fullest Potential – Improve the LDD Learner Journey

The importance of approaching the planning, development and delivery of LDD learner journeys in a fully holistic manner cannot be overstated. Having a clearly defined and regularly reviewed process with clear progressions is an essential component of success here.

Ask yourself: Are your current strategy and processes robust enough? Do you see gaps in your retention rates? Are you confident that if Ofsted came knocking tomorrow, your LDD provision would stand up to inspection?

Cognassist and Mesma’s Quality Assurance Framework is designed to help deliver at all stages of this process, ensuring better understanding, support and ongoing engagement of LDD learners. And it’s free!

Our aim is to support providers and learners to achieve better outcomes through a more collaborative, inclusive approach, at the same time as creating a solid body of evidence to drive continued success and support positive future Ofsted inspections.


Learn more about supporting learners with LDD through the Quality Assurance process: Watch a free webinar The Quality Series: Ensuring Equality


Ready to improve your LDD learner journey?

Talk to us about meeting your quality requirements