London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


LLUK - Learning support practitioners in lifelong learning

Learning support practitioners in lifelong learning: Development of a Standards Based Qualification framework for Learning Support Staff

Funded by:



January 2007


The Institute for Policy Studies in Education (ipse) was commissioned to undertake a research study investigating the roles and responsibilities of learning support practitioners (LSP) in Lifelong Learning and addressing the implications for the development of a qualifications framework and unit specifications for these staff. This research built on that undertaken for the LSDA in 2005 and reported in Robson et al (2006).

Aims of the Research

The aims of the project were to investigate the roles and responsibilities of LSPs in the prison sector, higher education and work-based learning and to consider the implications of the findings for the design of appropriate qualifications.

Design and Scope

A combination of interviews (both face-to-face and telephone) with key informants and practitioners in each of the higher education, work-based learning and prison sectors, together with the analysis of relevant documents, enabled us to draw up position papers in which salient issues relating to learning support in each sector were addressed. The findings from these position papers and our earlier research (Robson, et al, 2006) were used to compile a draft grid of roles and responsibilities for learning support practitioners in lifelong learning. A brief report attempted to draw out the implications of that work and the issues that arose for the design of the qualifications framework and for the unit specifications.


Telephone and face-to-face interviews, documentary analysis
and literature review.

Key Findings and Conclusions

Contexts for learning support vary greatly. Specifically, there is a strongly held
view in WBL that the draft standards for learning support practitioners do not seem to reflect the realities of their work and that the different circumstances and structures there need to be taken more into account. It may be that the standards will not be perceived as relevant in HE either, with the rejection of the word ‘support’ and its remedial connotations and with the insistence, in some places, of the need to locate support firmly within discipline boundaries. In the prison sector, LSPs (called Learning Support Assistants) are employed almost exclusively to work with young offenders (under age 18). A school staffing model exists, to the extent that there is a SENCO (or Special Educational Need Co-ordinator) who manages the LSPs and a draft job specification from the LSC (attached in Appendix), which requires LSPs to work under the direction of a teacher or trainer.

Thus, huge diversity of practice exists both across and within sectors within lifelong learning. This diversity is apparent in relation to staffing (titles, qualifications, training), organisational structures and cultures, as well as learner profiles, backgrounds and needs. Within existing constraints, the design of units and of the qualifications framework for LSPs needs to recognise and allow for this diversity.


Robson, J., Bailey, B. & Mendick, H (2006) An investigation into the roles of learning support workers in the learning and skills sector, (London, LSRC).

Project team:

Jocelyn Robson
Bill Bailey, University of Greenwich
Sumi Hollingworth


Jocelyn Robson


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