Compliance specialist, David Lockhart-Hawkins joined Aptem’s Director of Strategic Development, Mike Sims for a webinar to talk through best practice processes around identifying Additional Learning Support needs. This article provides an overview of the webinar.
The session started with a look at Aptem Assess, a new cognitive assessment tool that seamlessly integrates into the onboarding set-up for Aptem customers. David then shared an overview of his recommended 6-step apprenticeship learning support management process.
About David Lockhart-Hawkins: David is the Managing Director and Principal Consultant for Lockhart Hawkins Limited. He represents a number of the leading stakeholders in the sector as a consultant, playing a significant role in assisting the growth and prosperity of providers through designing and delivering effective and efficient evidence systems, monitoring programmes and insightful strategic development services. These include Apprenticeship programme design, compliance monitoring, quality improvement and workshops and webinars in quality and compliance.
David’s wide client portfolio includes some of England’s best known and high performing Universities, Colleges, Independent Providers and Employer Providers and is a strategic associate of the Strategic Development Network for whom he delivers frequent webinars. This includes an in-depth 2-hour webinar that is available on demand.
Aptem: Why do we need learning support management systems?
David Lockhart-Hawkins: Learning support funding in apprenticeships exists to meet the cost of putting into place reasonable adjustments for individuals who have a learning difficulty or disability as defined by the Equality Act. That is to say a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do day to day activities including driving, walking, typing, writing (and taking exams), talking, listening to conversations, reading, normal social interaction, and working life activities. When you claim funding you have to have evidence to underpin it. The complexities of the evidence requirements mean that you need some structure to your evidence systems to make sure you’re able to claim with confidence.
Aptem: How does this apply to apprenticeships?
David Lockhart-Hawkins: In apprenticeships, the funding rules make a slight adaptation in that they mention the Equality Act, but they also refer to the Education Act and Apprenticeship Skills Children and Learning Act. The funding rules say that a person is considered to have a learning difficulty or disability if that person has a significantly greater difficulty learning than the majority of persons the same age, or that the person has a disability that prevents or hinders the person from making use of the facilities of a kind generally provided by that institution.
The important part for apprenticeships is the next part, which is, as a result of that difficulty or disability they require reasonable adjustments in order to be able to complete their apprenticeship. It’s about identifying adjustments you might make to ensure that individuals can engage learning in the way that you want them to. If the need does not affect their ability to engage then there isn’t a claim for funding, but that isn’t to say they wouldn’t have a need you would want to account for in the design of their programme.
In apprenticeships, it’s very important that there has to be a need as a result of the difficulty – and an individual must require those adjustments in order to be able to complete their apprenticeship and the activities. The impairment must directly impact their ability to complete that apprenticeship.
Aptem: How do you recommend providers approach learning support?
David Lockhart-Hawkins: I recommend a 6-step apprenticeship learning support management process that takes you from the initial assessment through to evidencing learning support and monitoring its impact. Here is an overview of those six steps. Learning Support Management Model: Credit Lockhart Hawkins (www.lockharthawkins.com)
1. Assess stage – The means of identifying a need, and how a provider has evidence of that difficulty or disability. It’s got to meet, for funding purposes, that definition of being a learning difficulty or disability. If you’re going to make funding claims, you need to retain evidence of the means/results of identification and then assess the impact of that need on the apprenticeship experience. So the evidence should be robust.
Our advice is to look for robust formal solutions in this area and Aptem Assess is a good example of a tool that can identify a potential need.
Best practice for a provider is to look at triggers within their application information that can sensitively identify potential needs at an early stage. Ask relevant questions about whether the learner has potential learning difficulties with disabilities, whether they have had additional support in the past. Good providers will have that kind of diagnostic ability to look at general support needs, including wider needs of the individual in that circumstance, particularly around social and emotional difficulties and the challenges that learners might face. We are seeing a greater shift towards more cognitive understanding of neurodiversity, beyond English and maths, and more tools in that area that would normally form a part of any good provider’s armory.
2. This leads to the needs assessment stage, which takes the identification of potential needs, and identifies how it directly affects the apprenticeship. You then list the adjustments deemed necessary, as shown in the Aptem Assess tool, so you can see the strategies and interventions that address those elements.
If there’s no actual cost to you for that adjustment, then you’re not able to claim learning support funding for it. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you wouldn’t have a plan to implement that support package to ensure the learner is retained and makes the most of their potential.
3. The support plan stage is one of the most important stages. Once you’ve identified a need, understood its impact and the reasonable adjustments that are likely, you need to plan the logistics of the adjustments you’re going to make.
You should establish what exactly these adjustments are, who’s going to do them, how they’re going to do them, and how you’re going to monitor and evaluate their effectiveness. And the funding rules make it clear; you’ve got to have a support plan if you’re going to claim funding. If you’re not claiming funding, it’s still good practice to have a support plan if there is some need. For funding purposes, the plan must be agreed and signed off by the apprentice. With consent, the apprentice can choose to have that shared with their employer. If they don’t consent to having the plan shared with the employer, you need to make sure that the employer is not aware of the presence of that plan.
Advice in this area is always to think quality, first and foremost. From a compliance perspective, if you put reasonable effort into the design of that plan, it will set up your learning support funding claim a lot more strongly than if that plan is not detailed and not created by somebody with some expertise.
Of course, for funding purposes, you can’t claim any funding until you have a good plan in place, and that plan has been signed off. Providers that switch on learning support on day one, and don’t have a support plan until month two or month three, will have funding errors in those instances. So, always make sure you’ve got triggers for only turning learning support funding on when you’ve got a good plan and have commenced delivery of the first type of support intervention.
4. Deliver stage – the delivery part of this is linked to whether you’re claiming ongoing learning support funding. Quality wise of course we want to deliver it effectively because that’s what will keep a learner engaged and motivated. If we’re claiming funding then Learning support funding is paid on a month-by-month basis, and can be turned on and off. Learning support funding is paid for the periods in which the support interventions are occurring, so you need evidence of its delivery. You’ve got to keep evidence of the support activity occurring. Tracking mechanisms, as per those found in Aptem, are a good way of showing those intervention activities. Remember, a lot of intervention activities would be natural day-to-day within the engagements with that learner.
“Learning support is an area where, although its funding is often a driver for provider behaviour, ultimately we’re doing it for a quality purpose – to improve retention and improve that learner journey. That’s why a good plan works.” David Lockhart-Hawkins
5. Review stage – The review stage is something that qualitatively is naturally worthwhile. From a funding rules perspective, you’ve got to have a monthly support review to confirm whether the arrangements are still necessary and occurring. You need the ability to track that learning support is occurring. And you need a clear link to the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) to be able to turn on or off the funding. Good practice would have a separate review of those arrangements, with communication between all parties involved in the apprentice’s delivery.
6. Control stage – is a key component from a funding perspective, because it ensures that you’re able to claim learning support confidently. If you’re not claiming funding, then control is going to be around controlling the quality and effectiveness of delivery.
From a funding perspective:
- Is the learning support evidence pack compliant?
- Do you have a support plan?
- Is the plan feeding from a clear assessment of need?
You need those controls in the system before you switch learning support on.
Good practice is to have accountability within an organisation for managing the learning support. You may have resources from a learning support team. If not, you need to designate individuals with responsibility for those areas.
Think about how you schedule support reviews and how you track and monitor that. The key part, if you’re claiming funding, is the ability to stop learning support if it’s no longer required, or if the activities haven’t occurred within the given month.
Activities might be something as little as a trainer spends longer in their engagements with a learner. Therefore, you might not have a bespoke piece of evidence that says, I’m spending five minutes extra. Maybe it’s within the body of that learner’s normal day-to-day evidence. A big part of control is being aware of your system design.
Learning support is the one entity that can continue to be funded past the planned end date, the end of the practical period so its natural you will want to be able to identify the need of extension and apply it.
Be aware of contradiction in evidence – make sure that communication is effective so that trainers are using the plan. The most common audit error we see is where a learner has a learning support funding claim but the evidence from that learner’s trainer or tutor is saying there is no support required. So do ensure you’ve got that adequate control and infrastructure.
In summary from David Lockhart-Hawkins:
- Follow a robust learning support process to ensure best practice across each stage.
- Assess learner support needs.
- Take the identification of need, and identifies how it directly affects the apprenticeship.
- Plan reasonable adjustments to learning and EPA.
- Deliver high-quality support.
- Review the effectiveness of its support.
- Ensure the right compliance checks are in place to support funding claims.
- Don’t be afraid to claim the funding that you deserve, to enable you to continue to develop your additional learning support provision and drive successful learner outcomes.
- Do take the time to carefully evidence your support and its impact – using technology such as Aptem to help you manage it efficiently.
To hear more from David Lockhart-Hawkins on this and other compliance-related topics, including how to obtain templates for support needs assessment summaries and support plans connect with him here.
David also delivers CPD webinars through partnership with the Strategic Development Network on all things compliance, including programmes designed to upskill awareness in all apprenticeship provider job roles, as well as strategic compliance for leaders. Find out more here.
To talk to us about Aptem Assess, please get in touch or contact your Customer Success Manager.