“Cognassist is an easy way of getting evidence in a format that is auditable.”

We sat down and spoke to Louise Wilkinson, Lead Education Learning Support & Functional Skills Specialist at Skern Training and Skills to discuss how she uses Cognassist as part of the  Initial Advice and Guidance, to help write the support plans and apply for reasonable adjustments for functional skills and end point assessment. Also discussed was how the Compliance Manager at Skern Training and Skills applies for learning support funding using Cognassist as evidence of the support provided for the apprentices by the trainers.


Talk me through your internal needs assessment and ongoing support plan

Information, advice, and guidance (IAG) are very important for both the learner and with OFSTED compliance, so the IAG process and Cognassist plays an integral part in the process. My job as Lead in ALS is to build the learners’ profile for each learner that we sign up as an apprentice. As part of the IAG process, all of the apprentices will undertake free writing, diagnostic assessments on BKSB in English and Math, a basic key skills builder on BUD, learning styles and Cognassist to build a profile. Quite often I can see by the way they are matched in Cognassist and with their free writing that they may possibly have indicators of dyslexia or literacy difficulties.

Every single learner gets some kind of educational need added to their profile on BUD, whether they have any learning needs or not. This includes their learning preferences and even if they weren’t matched on Cognassist or have any other additional learning or health need, it becomes part of the ongoing support for every single learner that we have. For the learners that have been identified as neurodiverse through Cognassist, I write their support plan with recommendations of teaching and inclusivity, then from that, I go on to apply for access arrangements for awarding bodies for exams and the reasonable adjustments for EPA. All of the learners which require additional support are then supported through their individualise support plan, which is tiered down to the trainers who use them in developing their teaching and session planning with Functional skills embedded into the apprenticeship program, including strategies to develop literacy and mathematical skills.


How do you demonstrate the impact to the learner’s journey by providing learner support on a monthly basis?

As far as Cognassist is concerned, all our learners now have Flexible learning plans in place. I’ve worked with the trainers to get them all in place, because we used to get questions about the types of strategies that were being allocated to the apprentices, i.e. how is e-mail etiquette related to a job of an outdoor instructor?  That is why, the new flexible learning plans are as important as they are tailored to each of the individual’s needs from a huge bank of strategies from Cognassist.

When I sample the intervention reports even the feedback from the trainers is more supportive, as they can see the impact of Cognassist specifically within their curriculum and the apprenticeship and therefore, the impact on the feedback to the apprentice is more supportive to their specific learning journey.

Flexible learning plans, allow us to provide the relevant modules to each apprentice. For example, emotional intelligence for outdoor learners is valuable to their own understanding of the groups that they manage in their own working environment, which enables us to provide better support, as part of their own learning journey.


How do you apply for reasonable adjustments for functional skills and end point assessment using Cognassist as evidence?

I register the learners that are required to undertake functional skills, with 25% extra time or a reader/scribe where required, using the evidence of their cognitive support. I have four different awarding bodies that I have to apply for reasonable adjustments through, one of the bodies commented on how ‘amazing the support plans’ were! It is so important to provide evidence of Educational, health or learning needs in detail to support our learners as their neurodiversity is unique to them alone.

Cognassist is accepted as evidence, for the reasonable adjustments I have written, which forms a continuation of the support that they’ve had throughout their apprenticeship.

A good example is: the strategies that you get to support learning from Cognassist, particularly a learner that is completing a functional skills and that they may be matched in the domain of literacy is that the trainer can pull the modules across to support them in that area. Or, writing a personal development plan could support them within their apprenticeship at the time they need it. I believe that Cognassist supports the learner if it is used effectively as I am an advocate for anything to do with neurodiversity.

I have had some uncertainty initially from the trainers as they didn’t see that any of the strategies were as relevant to what they were learning on the curriculum or relevant to an outdoor instructor, however, this is why the flexible learning plans now are so important.


How does Cognassist save you time?

It supports the learners, however, if the trainer isn’t on-board, then the learner isn’t going to see any benefit. If a learner sees no benefit in doing a task, they won’t be engaged. This is why it is so important to engage with Cognassist. However, at Skern Training and Skills, we put flexible learning plans in place together as a team with the learner in mind.

It’s time-consuming, yet the trainers are fully supportive of their apprentices as part of their role. You don’t just teach people, you must support them and so if you’re not supporting them by teaching in the right way, they’re not going to be successful in completing their aspirations.

In previous roles, I was a senior lecturer so I understand the full support mechanism from a teaching and learning point of view myself, especially for learners in a vocational program who are not sufficiently supported with their learning needs. It’s knowing how to teach them in a creative way. The flexible learning plans allow this. It is a different kind of support.  If you take away the support that Cognassist provides by taking them off Cognassist, you need to still be providing the support, in a different way. You’ve still got to write a detailed report into BUD to be able to be compliant for funding, so why not use Cognassist?


How do you apply for learning support funding using Cognassist as evidence?

We just had a positive audit for Cognassist with no effect on our funding. When the auditor came in, they sampled several different Cognassist reports. As part of compliance the Cognassist reports and interventions, are checked for relevance to show the issue, the actions, impact and the next steps each month and tracked. Evidence on the intervention reports reflects the supportive learning journey. It is down to the evidence, you must show evidence of that supportive journey, from IAG when they do their initial assessment, right the way through to reasonable adjustments at EPA. This shows the full journey of support. If an apprentice does not feel challenged or stretched with the strategies that they are working through, the trainers recommend that the level is increased to give more impact of support.

We are expecting an Ofsted inspection anytime. They look at IAG closely, so of course, it is still a work in progress, but with the support that our team at STS offer our apprentices, I think we will be fine. Cognassist is an easy way of getting that evidence in a format that is auditable. We create the processes and ensure that all the support mechanisms are in place as a team to offer our learners full support from the start to finish of their apprenticeship at Skern Training and Skills to stretch and challenge them to achieve their aspirations for their future.

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