Q&A: Stewart Segal in Conversation with Cognassist

Posted on August 25th, 2020

Cognassist in conversation with Stewart Segal

Our head of science, Dr Louise Karwowski, recently sat down for a Q&A with former AELP CEO and board member, Stewart Segal, to talk about best practice for apprenticeship providers when it comes to learner support.

Louise and Stewart look at the current pitfalls of providers, the changes that are taking place and how organisations can increase their confidence in their support provisions and funding.

You can watch the full recording of their conversation right here or read the highlights below.


Louise: So welcome, Stewart, thank you for taking the time to catch up with me after our webinar earlier in the week. It was great. “Keeping Apprentices engaged and funded”, as well as what actions institutions should be taking in order to get the appropriate funding to support their apprentices.

I’m looking forward to delving further into these subjects, particularly for apprentices with learning difficulties.

So, let’s kick off with the question…

Why do you think there’s a feeling of negativity towards claiming learning support funding? Is it still with the level or do you think it’s something else?

Stewart: Yeah, well. I’ve been in the sector now for probably too many years, and it’s always been an issue.

It’s been an issue that people find it hard to understand what support needs to be given to apprentices.

And that’s understandable, this is a complex area.

And then I think the funding bodies have also been unclear as to the expectations of what support should be given and, therefore, their audit process.

So, over the years, a number of organisations have had issues around audit. Whether they’re providing the right support or more importantly whether they’re collecting the right evidence.

And unfortunately, that’s driven some of the views of training providers, and a solution to that is difficult because it is a complex area, so it’s very hard to delineate in a set of rules. You know, who is eligible, what support should be given, what evidence should be collected.

So, I think training providers need to be much more proactive.

And I guess I’m not just saying it because that’s the interview we’re doing today, but that’s why I think that the help and support that Cognassist can provide for them gives them:

  • The confidence to establish their own policies around what support’s given,
  • what evidence that they’re going to provide,
  • and, therefore, have a much stronger argument with auditors and be more confident in providing that support.


Louise: There’s a lot of providers out there that are providing support but not claiming. 


Stewart: Yeah. I’ve found over the years, not only are they providing the support they didn’t even realise it, but even where they realise they’re providing additional support, they won’t claim.

And I think it’s crazy.

I think we need to switch it round a bit and focus much more on what the individual apprentice needs.

There’s a duty really to make sure you understand what they need, particularly if there’s additional needs and special needs, and provide that support.

So, I don’t think it’s really a choice.

I would like to think, you know, everybody’s providing support and only a certain amount of claiming the right amount.

And even where people are claiming, they’re perhaps claiming from the wrong perspective and therefore not claiming enough, and it seems crazy.

We all think that the programmes are not funded to the extent they should be funded, and yet training providers have it within their gift to claim those funds and they’re not doing so.


Louise: Yes, have you seen anything that’s been effective in overcoming this issue?


Stewart: Yeah. Well, I mean clearly going through an audit is helpful if you come out the other end and you understand it a bit more.

But I think the process of writing policies is a good one.

I’m not a great process person, but frankly, this is one occasion where I would say yes, write your own company process and policy for how you deliver additional learning needs.

Now, I know that sounds fairly obvious, but it’s only when you set out exactly what the process is will it be a useful way of establishing how you’re doing it. Whether you’re picking up all those needs and what support you’re providing. And then to standardise that approach.

It’s almost counter-intuitive, of course, because this is an individual additional learning need and yet standardising it sounds like the sort of wrong thing to do. But I think that is the right thing to do.

What tends to happen is some companies get a specialist in or a group of specialists, which is great, but they should be supporting the operational team.

So, it’s having a process that every single training assessor is involved in driving and understands.


Louise: I fully agree. To provide a true quality provision, that’s what needs to happen. 


Stewart: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that the same issue is around the quality teams. Again, I’ve seen situations where because there’s a specialism, the quality teams are not ensuring that every single activity is embedded around the additional learning needs.

So in some respects, I think all learners should have a review about what additional learning needs they need. Then if it’s found that they don’t need any, they become a zero return rather than the other way around.

So, I would review every single learner for additional learning needs. Well, I think we should be doing that, but I don’t think many do.

The other thing that happens when you only look English and maths is that lots of training providers will establish that there is an additional learning need because of poor English and maths.

As soon as they, therefore, pass their English and maths functional skills, then the additional learning support stops. And I think they’ve forgotten why they’re providing the support what the additional learning need is.

The additional learning need may not be the lack of English. The lack of English understanding and ability to read impacts on all of their work, so that additional learning need can and probably should go on the whole way through the programme, rather than just when they’re on English and maths.

 So yet again, training providers don’t make the claim that they should be claiming and possibly not giving the support that is needed just because they passed some exam.


Louise: So, talking about the learner journey all the way through, I’d like to talk a little bit more about reasonable adjustments at end-point assessment.

In your experience, what is the biggest barrier to getting these in place for learners who require them?

Stewart: Yeah, I happen to have, it’s always the case, some personal experience around dyslexia. My daughter’s dyslexic and one or two of my close family at dyslexic.

I see the poor level of support provided in schools still, and it makes me worry about the level of support given as part of an apprenticeship programme. By the time they reach people have reached this age and experience, they’ve sort of developed their own ways of getting round it, and they’re pretty good at hiding it. And it is difficult to provide the support, you know, different colour paper and all those very easy aids, so it doesn’t happen.

That’s my fear, and I don’t think the whole process was thought through in terms of the end-point assessment the separation of end-point assessment from the main program mainly because of funding has become a difficulty.

Some training providers genuinely thought their work is done once they’ve reach Gateway.

EPAOs, I feel for them. They’ve got to pick up the learner, they’ve never met the learner before. They’ve never met the employer before.

And you’ve got an organisation, the training provider, who’s worked with them for 18 months and here they are they’ve dropped out. Was there a process of passing over the additional needs? Well, I’m sure there was in most cases, but it doesn’t sound great as a process.

I think now that most training providers understand that they’ve really got to manage the process, the whole journey, not just the journey to Gateway.


Louise: What can training providers be doing then? What can they be doing right now to support their learners while were coming out of this period? 


  • Write the policy, rewrite your policy. It will make you think about the rules and about how it applies to the full programme, the whole programme.
  • I would review all of the learners. Right now. If you havent done it already, do it now. And if you dont end up with more of your learners on with additional learning needs and additional support, then look again because its wrong.
  • Fund that additional need through the whole length of the program, where appropriate he added, because thats what the rules say. But more and more people should support people through the whole of their program.

Adopt a structure, adopt a common analysis process. Im sure thats what you talk about with training providers to get a structured process, and if you need help, then I guess youre there to do that with training providers.

But its definitely a structured process that all their team are involved in, not just the specialists.

Apply it and apply it soon because there will be higher needs out in the business.


If youre looking for more advice on funding regulations and how much you can claim, see our learning support funding page and download our full funding guide.

Posted on August 25th, 2020
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