Learning support in the Ofsted 3 I’s

7 mins read

The primary motivation for improving learning support is about achieving the very best outcomes for learners. But there’s nothing like an impending Ofsted inspection to add a little focus to this endeavour…

Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework (EIF) is structured to help facilitate the very best environments when it comes to learning support. So when preparing for an Ofsted inspection, providers have a lot to gain by paying close attention to the guidance regarding Quality of Education assessments.

The EIF is a great starting point for anyone looking to double down on best practices. In this article, we’ll explore how (through the well-known 3 I’s) Ofsted encourages and supports providers to raise their game in terms of the learning support that they offer.


What are the Ofsted 3 I’s?

Within the new Ofsted framework, the 3 I’s stand for “Intent, Implementation and Impact.” They’re a three-part formula, introduced in 2019 and nested within the Quality of Education assessment – one of four key judgement categories.

Before expanding on these three areas in a little more detail, it’s important to stress the need for providers to take a holistic view of the 3 I’s.

While it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the core focus of each of these subcategories, they are not graded in isolation from each other. Ofsted inspectors will assess each subcategory with equal weighting, applying a judgement that reflects the provider’s performance across all three.

But don’t take our word for it.

Section 241 of the Ofsted EIF states: “Inspectors will not grade intent, implementation and impact separately. Instead, inspectors will reach a single graded judgement for the quality of education and training, drawing on all the evidence they have gathered and using their professional judgement.”

So let’s dive into each of the 3 I’s Ofsted will be assessing, paying particular attention to the specific call-outs made within the EIF for learning support and a SEND focus.


1.   Intent

The first of the 3 I’s Ofsted examines is intent. Your intent refers to the “provider’s educational intent.” This assessment seeks to ensure a well-rounded curriculum, which has been carefully considered and crafted to develop “the knowledge, skills and behaviours that learners need in order to take advantage of the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences that prepare them for their next stage in education, training or employment.”

Learning support is repeatedly referenced within the grade descriptors here.

For a grade of “Good” or “Outstanding”, it should be evident to inspectors that “the provider is ambitious for all its learners, including those with SEND and those who have high needs, and this is reflected in the curriculum. The curriculum remains ambitious and is tailored, where necessary, to meet individual needs.”

The curriculum should also be “designed to give learners, particularly the most disadvantaged, the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life.” There’s an emphasis placed upon the contextual relevance of the planned curriculum, and the need to show how decisions around curriculum were made based on evidence and data gained through initial assessment.


2.   Implementation

Implementation, the second of the 3 I’s that Ofsted assesses, focuses on how the planned curriculum is actively delivered. Essentially, “how the curriculum is taught at subject, class, lecture or workshop level.”

Once again, we see a clear focus on SEND support, especially about achieving the highest Outstanding grade. To achieve this grading, Ofsted will be looking to establish that “across all parts of the provider, including in subcontracted provision and for learners with SEND and those with high needs, teaching and training are of a high quality.”

There’s a clear expectation for teaching staff to pay attention to the sequence of learning. This expectation includes regular appraisals of necessary learning support and reasonable adjustments and effective use of educational resources to ensure your SEND learners can meet the learning objectives.


3.   Impact

Finally, Ofsted inspectors will be looking to assess the impact of your provision. They’ll be focusing on “what learners have learned, and the skills they have gained and can apply.”

Predictably, once again, we see a specific focus upon the need for learning support to ensure that “disadvantaged learners and learners with SEND acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life.”

To hit an “Outstanding” grading, providers must demonstrate that “learners consistently achieve highly, particularly the most disadvantaged. Learners with SEND achieve the best possible outcomes.”


Supporting SEND learners within your existing practices

As is demonstrated across each of the 3 I’s, Ofsted is focused on how providers assess and facilitate learning support for SEND learners. However, when it comes to the delivery of personalised learning support, there’s a delicate balance.

Section 232 of the EIF states that: “Inspectors will evaluate how assessment supports the teaching of the curriculum, while not driving teachers towards excessive individualisation, differentiation or interventions that are almost impossible to deliver without lowering expectations of some learners and/or driving up teachers’ workload.”

The message here is clear.

SEND provision and learner support should form a vital element of your usual activity but also needs to be well-integrated, realistic and maintainable. Learning support should not be an afterthought or emergency measure actioned in the face of inspection.

The best gradings will be obtained by the organisations that can meet the high expectations for learning support and SEND provision that inspection demands, in a sustainable, scalable manner, across the full learner journey.

Cognassist is well-placed to help enable this, offering a broad, easy to implement digital cognitive assessment, identifying learning needs and enabling providers to make informed decisions about learning support.

Learners receive appropriate, personalised support, delivered from day one and continually evaluated, using a standardised structure that reduces strain on staff. In the face of an inspection, Cognassist also helps providers produce supportive evidence of their proactive learning support measures, with clear tracking and reporting.


5 tips for creating learning support around the Ofsted Education Inspection Framework

So if you’re looking to establish best practices for learning support, what can you do next?

Getting a solid strategy in place here will help a diverse range of learners to achieve their very best outcomes. Here are some helpful pointers that will keep you aligned with the criteria assessed by the EIF.


1.   Take a joined up approach

Remember to look at the 3 I’s in combination, never in isolation. Learner support needs to be present and consistent across the entire learner journey, and this hits each stage of curriculum delivery as Ofsted assess Quality of Education.

From initial assessment to end-point assessment, the journey each learner takes is different. So make sure you have a robust framework to support learners.


2.   Share the vision

There’s a distinct need for transparency when considering your curriculum provision. Everyone needs to actively contribute to the experience and outcomes of learners, including subcontractors, employers and tutors.

There needs to be a firm and shared understanding of the intended curriculum and how learning support will sit alongside your core provision and the work environment of the learner.


3.   Show deep understanding of your learners

We need to be actively and continuously identifying and supporting learners’ needs, evolving access to education.

Initial assessment is critical, but learning opportunities need to be appropriately structured throughout. Part of this process is reviewing how effective your support is for learners. It’s especially important to demonstrate sensitivity to SEND here. Digital cognitive assessments represent a real opportunity to break down barriers and provide evidence towards a  learning needs assessment.

We cannot forget that all education providers have a legal obligation to provide reasonable adjustments for learners who experience learning difficulties that impact their chances of completion.


4.   Provide ongoing staff training

There are significant benefits to being able to demonstrate training activities that contribute to delivering the curriculum intent. The neurodiversity training that Cognassist can provide is a powerful way of showing your commitment to SEND learners as a provider. If you want to get started on this journey, you can gain a qualification in neurodiversity when you take our free Neurodiversity Masterclass.

Inclusivity and learner support are also critical topics of discussion within the wider education sector. There are always events, conferences and forums on these subjects that you can encourage staff to attend and contribute towards.

And many learning provider networks share learner support best practices and case studies.


5.   Don’t forget the “Fourth I”

At Cognassist, we recommend remaining mindful of an additional “fourth I” – Inclusion.

By keeping the need to demonstrate intent, implementation and impact balanced with an overarching commitment to inclusion, the provision of learning support will always remain strong.

While it may not be officially cited within the 3 I’s, Ofsted has made it clear that inclusion is unquestionably essential to achieving the highest grades.

The new Education Inspection Framework places a much stronger emphasis on the importance of “the quality of provision for learners with high needs and with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND)”. And the guidance clearly states that learners with SEND, “a much broader group than those attracting high needs funding, will always be considered during the inspection of any type of provision.”


Learning support: the key to unlocking success in the Ofsted 3 I’s?

As with most aspects of education delivery, learning support sees providers on a constant quest for balance. Learner support must be scalable and robust for both learners and staff across all stages of the learner journey. And at the same time, providers must show themselves to be pursuing the very best for their learners.

When it comes to Ofsted finding all they need to award the highest gradings, we’d like to suggest that success lies at the intersection of process and planning.

To deliver truly impactful learner support, you need to know your learners and your responsibilities towards them.

Combine a clear and contextual understanding of learning needs with tools and resources to help you design, implement and record ongoing support, and you’ll be in a strong position. Giving you an approach as unique as each of your learners.


Learn more about Ofsted’s 3 I’s directly from Marina Gaze, former Deputy Director for FE and Skills.

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