LOETB Learning and Training Experience

Learner Admission

The introduction of the PLSS Learner Database provides for a standardised application procedure across services. The learner database will make it easier for a learner to progress through different levels and sectors of the FET Service as they will not need to provide detailed personal data to register on a subsequent course and their progression and certification will also be tracked. LOETB centres do not currently have a common, equality-proofed, Admissions Policy for all of its FET services. This is a priority for the new academic year in 2018. The Policy and related procedures should make reference to the information that must be provided to learners with respect to the programme, fees and grant opportunities, reasonable accommodations etc., as well as good-practice, equality-proofed procedures and templates regarding interviews/advisory meetings and selection criteria.

On receipt of application/referral, centres call applicants for an initial assessment. For programmes at Level 4-6, this is an online assessment in English (and Maths where Maths is a component of the chosen course). Where a learner has evidence to indicate that they would normally have had reasonable accommodation in previous education settings, the applicant will be afforded the same accommodation for the assessment e.g. a reader.

The need for a common assessment tool to determine suitability for programmes was identified in the past number of years. It emerged that the main reason for learners leaving programmes early was because the level of the programme did not match the capacity of the learner. The learner may have been struggling from a literacy point of view, and sometimes where there was a mathematical element to the programme, this presented a barrier to the learner successfully achieving a major award.

The assessment tool that was sourced by LOETB aims to identify the applicant’s capacity prior to entry on the programme. Where an applicant is deemed unsuitable for the particular course based on results of the assessment, the centre will refer the learner to the Adult Guidance Service in order to discuss their options. Where there appears to be only a slight mismatch between the learner’s result and the level of the programme, relevant supports are put in place for the learners such as extra English or Maths classes, to ensure that learners don’t fall behind in the first three months of the programme, until their confidence has been developed to enable them to proceed as normal.

Having used the online assessment for two academic years, findings would indicate that the retention rates and completion rates, on Level 5 programmes in particular, have significantly improved.

The results of the online diagnostic assessment determine whether or not the learner is at, or close to, the required level for the particular course. If so, typically, the applicant will then be invited to attend an informal interview to assess their suitability for the course for which they are applying. The admissions interview is conducted by the course coordinator or an experienced teacher on the course. The purpose of the interview is to assess whether the learner meets the entry criteria for the course where these exist, or to facilitate the learner to find the course most suitable for their needs. Other, course specific, information is given to learners upon entry to the course. The LOETB Admissions Appeals Policy outlines procedures for appeal for those learners who are not successful in their application onto a course.

Since its establishment, LOETBs QA Department manages and co-ordinates the BKSB process across the FET services ensuring a more consistent approach to the assessment process for learners.

 

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

 

LOETB does not currently have agreed quality-assured processes to support the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for any purpose other than access. Where a learner has previously achieved a non-CAS module that has been migrated to a component listed in the programme structure (i.e. old FETAC/NCVA) that is not more than 5 years old, they may receive an exemption from that module. Applications for exemptions using certified learning from other non-CAS awards will be processed in line with the QQI list of exemptions. In September 2017, the QA Department introduced a new Exemption application process for learners who wish to use previously acquired certification (CAS or non-CAS) as exemptions for the purposes of a major award, in line with the five-year rule. The purpose of the introduction of this process was to ensure that the rule was being applied consistently across the service and to ensure that learners did not miss out on using exemptions due to any delay in certification by an ETB centre.

Information and Guidance for Learners

On starting a course in LOETB, learners have an induction session/s in which they receive general information about the centre, as well as course-specific information such as modules to be covered, the course calendar and timetable, assessments and assessment deadlines, attendance policies and procedures, assessment policies and procedures, supports available to learners, SUSI grants, code of conduct, complaints procedure and other relevant information. It is the responsibility of each centre to provide information to learners at induction. However, the provision of a common Induction information pack has been identified as necessary in order to ensure consistency.

Upon receiving notification of final results, learners are informed of their right to appeal their grade in accordance with the LOETB Appeals Policy.

Supports for Learners

In all centres, learners are encouraged, upon application for admission, to disclose any special needs or disabilities they may have, in order that appropriate supports or reasonable accommodations may be put in place. Where such a disclosure is made, an appropriate staff member will meet the learner to discuss the nature of the supports that may be required. Depending on the nature of those supports, and the centre in which the course is being delivered, that staff member may be the centre manager, guidance counsellor, the course coordinator, or the class teacher. The nature of the supports may involve application for a HEA grant in the context of a PLC student (e.g. for laptop, sign language interpreter etc.) and other reasonable accommodations, such as extra time in an exam. New guidelines around reasonable accommodations are being developed by the ETBI Assessment Procedures Working Group, and these will inform the development of the common LOETB policy on reasonable accommodations.

Every reasonable effort is made to support learners with difficulties, either before admission or once they have started on the course. These differences might include prior learning or experience, maturity, differing capabilities or other. In this case, the supports needed will be agreed in consultation with the learner, and could include one-to-one learning supports around additional literacy or maths needs, or other additional tutoring where this may be required. However, it is acknowledged that not all support needs may be able to be met within the physical, financial, and staffing restrictions within which the centre and LOETB must operate.

The pilot project currently being run with the Adult Literacy service and the Apprenticeship Senior Training Advisors (referenced in Section 9) provides additional supports to apprentices as required to support successful progression throughout all phases of the apprenticeship.

LOETB engages with stakeholders to provide relevant specialist supports for all learners, including those with a disability. Learners are supported to access the Fund for Students with Disabilities. LOETB provides a range of IT supports for learners with disabilities. These include ‘BrowseAloud’, ‘Text Help Read Write Gold’, ‘Touch Type Read and Spell’, ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Clicker 6’.

 

The Learning Experience and Environment

 

Physical Environment

LOETB is committed to creating within its centres, a learning environment which in its physical, social, cultural and intellectual aspects allows learners to have a positive and holistic learning experience, facilitating them to develop both personally and academically. This means, for example, that learners will experience safe and clean classrooms with appropriate equipment and other resources such as software. In establishing the FET centre model of provision, LOETB has significantly invested in the refurbishment of buildings and the availability of resources for FET learners.

Social Environment

Learners engaging on a course will be respected and treated in an equitable manner in line with LOETB’s commitment to equality. Where possible or appropriate, centres organise activities to support a positive social and cultural learning environment through activities such as field trips or guest speakers.

Many of LOETB’s centres hold fundraising events for local or national charities. Events such as cake sales, sponsored walks, fancy dress or Christmas Jumper days are held regularly. The satisfaction and leadership skills gained by the learners from organising such events is very worthwhile and boosts their sense of citizenship and belonging, which demonstrate the wider benefits of learning.

Portlaoise Institute encourages interested learners to take part in extracurricular activities such as drama and sport. The PLC centre has a Gaelic Football team that participates in the Sigerson Cup. LOETB is a strong advocate for learner participation in extra-curricular activities in order to boost their confidence and overall wellbeing.

Oversight of Work Placement

LOETB is committed to ensuring that the work-based learning environments that learners experience as part of their work placements are appropriate, safe, and not exploitative of the learners that engage in them. To this end, a named person within each course will have responsibility for oversight of that placement, usually the individual Work Experience teacher. Guidelines for centres organising work placements, as well as for work placement supervisors, have recently been developed to ensure the placement is properly supported, and that the work placement supervisor understands what is expected in an appropriate work placement context.

Feedback from Learners

Learner feedback is an essential element to the life cycle of a course within LOETB. Feedback is sought for most courses through end-of-term evaluations, and the information gathered can be used to address issues arising throughout the course, and informs future iterations of the course, (e.g. with respect to module choice etc.), as well as new course development. In addition, learners can raise any concerns or feedback they may have with either the course teacher or course coordinator at any time between the formal feedback opportunities. Currently, other than those grievances that are brought to the appeals panel, there is no process to review learner feedback at ETB-level on a systematic basis.

The QA Department circulate an annual end-of-year Learner Satisfaction Survey to learners - a link is sent via text to all learners. The response rate is improving each year and the level of satisfaction is improving. The survey provides an opportunity for learners to provide feedback in an anonymous way and to provide ideas about how the service can be improved.

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