Reasonable adjustment outcomes: success stories and the Ofsted EIF
The final panel in our Reasonable Adjustments Series was all about outcomes and doing what we can to ensure they are positive.
We listened to videos of real learners telling their story and heard from our panellists about their on the ground experience of success stories, from an EPA perspective and an Ofsted inspection perspective.
This whole panel series has really been a journey about understanding the full process of reasonable adjustments.
And what better way to finish the series than to hear about the real successes of reasonable adjustments for learners and the organisations who work hard to put them in place.
In our final panel, we welcomed:
Aaron Crudge – former apprentice and Assessment Operations Exam Centre Manager at WhiteHat Group
Helen Bramley – Educational Consultant
Chris Quickfall – CEO and founder at Cognassist
And our fantastic host Louise Karwowski – Head of Science at Cognassist
We were really keen to start off with Aaron’s personal story of reasonable adjustments and how that has transferred into his own role, where he now applies for end-point assessment reasonable adjustments for other apprentices like him.
Aaron, how did you initially feel about education or learning?
Aaron: So, I think right- right at the start of my learning journey back in school, probably quite scared was the key message, I suppose.
Having- having a speech impediment is probably a fairly rare additional learning need in comparison to other requirements. It’s not a particularly common learning need and, therefore, there- were fewer measures in place to support it.
I wasn’t too sure how I would do. If I’d be able to achieve grades that were representative of my ability because- of my speech impediment.
It was that sort of fear of the unknown and not being too sure if I’d be successful because my speech impediment. So yeah, at the start of my learning journey I’d say probably nervous, unsure and quite scared.
What kickstarted that process, then, for you to get support in place?
Aaron: So unsurprisingly, I’d always known- that I’d had this speech impediment. Obviously- it’s fairly obvious to see. So I always knew that I had that.
The kickstarter really for me was when I was about five or six years old. I attended my first session- of speech therapy.
That was where I began to see that actually there were measures in place to support people like me and there were things that I could do to make sure that I didn’t let my speech impact my success in the future and how I would do in education.
That was the real kickstarter to my development and to try and tackle the beast, I suppose, at the time.
On from that, I began to realise that actually there were things that could be done and there were ways that I could not let- my speech impact my development.
So throughout school, I didn’t need too much being done for me because school is mainly exams and my speech didn’t have a massive impact at that stage. I probably didn’t realise the full extent of the support I needed until a couple of years ago, after I left school and moved into work.
And that stage you realise, “Oh wow, there are so many things that I do rely on speech that aren’t exams. That actually I might need further support on those than I realise because of the fact in school I hadn’t had that massive exposure to those situations.”
Did that support continue during your apprenticeship?
Aaron: Yes, most certainly.
I currently work at WhiteHat but I also completed my apprenticeship through WhiteHat. So I was working and being trained by them at the same time. I mean, so much support throughout my entire programme.
Obviously, apprenticeship are quite a different method of assessment to conventional school exams.
So for me, in my final assessment of my apprenticeship, it consisted of- over 80% of the assessment was speaking. I had to do a presentation and an interview as part of my end-point assessment, which as you can imagine for a person with a speech impediment was pretty scary.
But actually, as soon as I began my programme and throughout it [I was supported] by my coach and by the ALN team at WhiteHat. To make sure- that by the time I reached my end-point assessment, I was feeling comfortable and able to perform to the best of my abilities.
A huge amount of support is available WhiteHat. I would also give a shout out to CMI, who are the EPAO for my programme, for again providing as much support as they could for me and making sure that my speech impediment didn’t have an impact on my EPA.
The support is there at WhiteHat. For me, it actually made me really appreciate that actually my speech impediment wouldn’t be a barrier and that I could succeed, even despite it.
For me, that’s an example of where the correct support being in place for someone can really allow them to achieve and be successful, despite any ALN needs that they might have.
What an inspirational story! What impact has this had on your outlook to learning and perhaps wider areas of life?
Aaron: Yes, after the completion of my assessment, I think one of the things I thought at that point was actually anything is possible.
Regardless of whatever additional learning needs you may have, you can succeed if you have the right support in place.
I mean, if you said to me two years ago that I’d be currently on this panel discussion I would probably have laughed in your face, and here I am.
I think that is an example of where if you have the right support in place, you really can succeed and you really can do amazing things.
As I say, I never would have thought at this stage of my career that- I would be speaking at these types of events about my speech, about the challenges that I have had with it.
Personally, it’s hugely improved my confidence. A few years ago, I was reasonably quiet and introverted because I didn’t feel I was able to speak in front of people I didn’t know. I found it awkward or embarrassing potentially if I did have any issues.
I think to have gone through an assessment process that was 80% speaking, with I think it was 85% achievement overall in my assessment shows actually with the right support in place, there- really is nothing you can’t achieve.
And hopefully serves as an example for other people who’ve got additional learning needs that actually if you get the right support in place, if you speak to the right people, then you really can achieve anything.
Helen, you have years of inspection experience. What does high quality support look like to you?
Helen: Well, as a leader of a high needs college, high quality support relies really on tutors and their leaders working collaboratively with their awarding bodies to ensure their learners are at the heart of any decisions they make.
To ensure outcomes for their learners are positive.
As leaders, we expect high needs learners EHCP aims to link effectively to learner’s long and medium-term goals, and subsequent targets set that are challenging.
Staff at all levels need to work together to ensure their learners achieve these goals and to help support them into appropriate destinations, such as supported living, into sustainable paid work or on to the next level of FE or HE provision.
Everyone really in the organisation and external professionals such as social workers, families alongside their learners need to work together. Putting the maximum amount of support in place to help them achieve as well as, if not better, than other learners on their programme who do not receive that support or do not require support.
What relationship have you seen between high quality support and completion or achievement rates?
Helen: When high quality support is implemented effectively – adhering, remember, to awarding bodies reasonable adjustment policies, which do vary significantly – there is no reason why success rates should be any different to learners who do not require support.
As part of their self-assessment reports, leaders need to include achievement gaps of different cohorts of learners and are expected to explore quite carefully why certain learners have not achieved as well as others.
So for example, leaders should be concerned if learners with visual impairments, with autism or moderate learning difficulties achieve less as a possibility.
Which reasonable adjustments are the most common? Chris, shall we start with you?
Chris: yeah, I have to say one of the most common reason adjustments I hear people talking about is extra time at end-point assessment.
But I think, actually, if you look at what people do – and I’ve seen you do training with educators before, Louise. When we teach them how the brain works, we can see educators saying, “Oh well, I’ve got learner and I’ve adjusted like this because I’ve picked up that they do X and Y.” That adjustment in itself is a reasonable adjustment. But I think it’s just not as commonly recognised because it’s something that is quite simple and good educators just adapt.
So I think really there’s lots and lots of adaptions and reasonable adjustments that are less recognised that we are always undertaking. And then there are also adjustments at end-point assessment, which in a high stakes assessment have to be more formalised and they probably are recognised more commonly.
Aaron: Similar to Chris, certainly I would say the- most common reasonable adjustment I see is extra time in exams and also end-point assessment.
Although as the number of apprentices we have on programme increases, I think what is becoming quite nice is that actually were not seeing a key theme across the board.
Apprentices are getting a whole range of reasonable adjustments to suit their needs more.
I think the fact that we are starting to see less of a trend across programme for apprentices shows that apprentices are getting the right support.
Again, similarly to Chris, I think one of the most common forms of adjustment that I’m now applying for apprentices – and again this property is recognised as a formal adjustment – going into the end-point assessment is to have a pre-assessment call with their assessor.
It sounds really simple and is actually quite simple. But it allows apprentices with- additional needs, such as anxiety, to actually then meet their assessor in advance of their assessment taking place. To- remove that kind of ambiguity, that new person situation.
As you say, it probably isn’t recognised as much as a formal, typical reasonable adjustment. But actually it’s one of those adjustments that’s probably got one of the highest success rates in making apprentices calm going into the live assessment and just ensuring that that new person ambiguity and new situation doesn’t cause any problems.
That was an adjustment have my own end-point assessment and probably was the most helpful. So going into my live assessment, I knew who my assessor was and I knew that they understood my needs so if anything did happen or go slightly wrong during my assessment, they would know how to deal with it.
That’s one of the most reassuring things to know someone whose- additional needs can make them feel anxious or nervous.
It’s one of the most helpful things to have going into a formal assessment.
Helen: I agree with Chris and Aaron. For me, it’s mostly minor adjustments at my college that we apply for.
So the usual coloured paper, additional time for autistic learners, but what springs to mind is that when we have spiky profiles for learners with high needs or even mild learning difficulties, they can have spiky profiles between the English and maths.
One gentleman I know of was much weaker on his English than his maths. So when he sat the maths assessment, we applied for reasonable adjustments so that he could have a reader because after all his English isn’t being tested, it’s his mathematics that is being tested at that point.
That for me was a standout moment. As a result that learner achieved his maths functional skills.
Helen, do you feel you’ve witnessed an evolution over time when it comes to the implementation of reasonable adjustments in the further education space?
Helen: Whilst I do think things seem to be improving, there is still a long way to go. Part of this, I believe, is due to leaders and tutors not perhaps having the confidence and understanding to challenge their awarding bodies with the diverse range of needs of their learners.
Whilst all awarding body should have an effective reasonable adjustment policy, it’s not necessarily the case that the body has a particular specialist. Too often, leaders with individual needs with respect to reasonable adjustments are lost in the mainstream sector.
Remember, all organisations have a legal obligation to be compliant with the Equality Act 2010.
I do believe, however, that it’s better in the specialist sector where staff have more specialist knowledge and skills and know their learners well enough to challenge the body accordingly.
My advice would be to try particular methods that work with your learners in supporting them.
For example, try breaking up a test into small manageable chunks of time to see whether that makes a difference.
For an online test, explore whether printing out hard copy makes a difference to them or do they need some adaptive equipment, such as a keyboard with enlarged letters, to bring about a more successful outcome?
Once staff at operational level understand what will make a difference, then build up a good relationship with your awarding body and speak with your EV. Challenge them to make the reasonable adjustments your learner needs to ensure they are not disadvantaged by their learning difficulty or disability.
Chris, what do you view is best practice for implementing reasonable adjustments?
Chris: I’d echo a bit of what Helen was saying there. There’s a cultural change we’ve seen happening with providers, where they’re really recognising that in order to realise their best, you need to start using these reasonable adjustments a lot more commonly.
Some providers are getting really good at it and some providers are slowly catching up – Exactly the same with the end-point assessment organisations.
So I think getting that early culture and understanding with the EPA is really important for making them aware that this is something your organisation takes pride in. That you are trying to remove barriers for learners not just during learning but at assessment and establishing that two-way communication.
We’ve talked about making sure that communication is addressed really early so the learner is conscious about what reasonable adjustments they should be expecting during the learning environment and the assessment environment. And communicating early with that end-point assessment organisation to make sure you’re telling them all about the normal practices that are occurring day-to-day.
What’s the normal learning and working environment that individual and how can we reflect that at end-point assessment without doing any compromising of original intent?
We really need to make sure the communication is there. We need to make sure we’re communicating with all stakeholders. We want to be introducing these reasonable adjustments throughout and demonstrating that.
How high a priority as the implementation of reasonable adjustments at inspection?
Helen: Well, as we’ve heard previously, wherever outcomes are affected – in other words, success rate data – from experience as a nominee during inspection, I think inspectors would certainly explore with leaders and their staff why success rates have deteriorated and what they are doing about rectifying it.
If it appears that learners with moderate or severe learning difficulties or those of the disability are not achieving as well as their counterpart learners on the same programme, questions will certainly be asked.
These questions may explore what training staff receive when they work with learners needing additional support. They might look at how our sessions such as English or maths are taught.
For example, are the groups too big for the learners with autism to concentrate? Or are tutors asked to teach too many different levels? Or indeed have leaders got their support and staff ratios right? You know, one-to-one is being funded for one to ones, so are their learners getting what they being funded for?
A great point to finish on from Helen!
Certainly a question all providers and employers should be asking themselves, “Are learners getting what they’re funded for?”
We’ve gone through the various steps of reasonable adjustments: implementation, compliance, execution and outcomes. All in the hopes of helping organisations to answer this question and ensure all learners are getting the help they need and deserve throughout their apprenticeship and beyond.
The feedback from the series has been wonderful to hear. It really shows the value of having conversations around what high quality support looks like, which certainly includes reasonable adjustments:
“I have found the whole series to be really insightful and will definitely apply this within our company.”
“Excellent series of webinars on reasonable adjustments.”
“It’s great to see the awareness being raised around reasonable adjustments.”
Download our free handbook
- Where reasonable adjustments have the most impact for learners.
- The matrix for identifying the best reasonable adjustments to drive learner success.
- Guidance to create a successful application for your awarding organisation.
- Best practices on evidencing and execution.