Individual learning plans (ILPs) and Ofsted

Posted by Carla Martinho

How ILPs create naturally occurring evidence for Ofsted 

In 2019 Ofsted launched their new Education Inspection Framework (EIF), representing a significant shift in focus from qualification achievement rates as a key indicator of quality to giving learners  "...the knowledge and skills for future learning and employment" and “…the cultural capital they need to succeed in life."
(Source: Intent, Education inspection framework, Updated 23 July 2021)

For most Further Education and Skills providers, this has meant a change in almost every aspect of how they design, deliver, and measure the success of their learning programmes - or as Ofsted put it, the Intent, Implementation, and Impact of their curriculum.  

In this blog, we’ll look at how you can use an individual learning plan (ILP) to support the delivery and evidencing of a high-quality learning experience and positive learner outcomes as defined in the Education Inspection Framework. 

Higher and wider 

"Inspectors will make a judgement on the personal development of learners by evaluating the extent to which the curriculum extends beyond the academic, technical or vocational. It provides for learners’ broader development, enabling them to develop and discover their interests and talents."
(Source: Personal development, Education inspection framework, Updated 23 July 2021)

The scope of what Ofsted expect providers to deliver is no longer limited to the achievement of qualifications, so your learners’ ILPs need to reflect that breadth of scope. Include their wider aspirations in terms of learning, employment and life goals and show them (and Ofsted) how the learning they are planning can help them to move closer to or achieve these goals.  

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Whose ILP is it anyway?

For any ILP to be effective, it needs to belong (as the name suggests) to the individual learner. You need to work with them as the learning provider to set their goals but ultimately, the learner needs to be given the tools to take ownership – adding new targets, defining how these will be achieved and deciding how they are progressing against their targets. A genuinely collaborative ILP can be essential in developing a learner’s attitude to their training, increasing their motivation and embedding the concept that they are in control of their (lifelong) learning journey.  

"Learners’ attitudes to their education or training are positive. They are committed to their learning, know how to study effectively and do so, are resilient to setbacks and take pride in their achievements."
(Source: Behaviour and attitudes, Education inspection framework, Updated 23 July 2021)

"Learner motivation and positive attitudes to learning are important predictors of attainment."
(Source: Behaviour and attitudes, section 246, FE and Skills Handbook, 1 Sept 2021)


Eating the elephant - size matters 

An ILP needs to be the right size for the course and the learner: it’s not a one-size-fits-all activity and your ILP tool should be flexible enough to allow for this. An ILP for an IT for Beginners course needs to be different in the level of detail and tone to one for an Advanced Certificate in Marine Engineering so that it is accessible and usable for all levels of learner. What they do have in common is the need to be able to define the steps required to achieve each target or overall goal so that the learner is clear exactly what they need to do to and when. Sequencing of learning is a core concept in the EIF, so it’s not just about targets being SMART (although that’s obviously a good starting point), it also illustrates to both the learner and Ofsted that learning.

"…is coherently planned and sequenced towards cumulatively sufficient knowledge and skills for future learning and employment."
(Source: Intent, Education inspection framework, Updated 23 July 2021)


Better individual learning plan = better outcomes 

Your higher and wider ILP, which the learner owns, showing clearly defined targets in small achievable chunks, is going to lead to better outcomes, as a minimum because it defines what success looks like.   

The power of the ILP is not just in setting goals, it’s also in helping learners to understand their progress and achievements. Not only is this hugely beneficial to the learner in building confidence and motivation to take the next step in learning and in life, but regular reviews of progress against the ILP will also help the learner to remember, understand and articulate this to inspectors if they are selected as part of Ofsted’s deep dives.  

Deep dives are targeted curriculum reviews that form a large part of inspectors’ evidence gathering activity. They include talking to learners to understand their experience of learning with you as a provider. Ofsted will be looking for the learner’s overall development, for example feeling more confident at making presentations or helping their children with their maths homework as a result of their time with you, which are really good outcomes for the individual. These are usually called ‘soft’ outcomes but as anyone who has worked in education for any length of time knows, soft outcomes are the hardest to deliver and prove. A well-constructed ILP used as a live document can help you to evidence those notoriously hard-to-prove outcomes - not just qualifications achieved. 

"…the curriculum and the provider’s wider work support learners to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy."
(Source: Personal development, Education inspection framework, Updated 23 July 2021)


The importance of ‘naturally occurring evidence 

 The Education and Skills Funding Agency and Ofsted emphasise the fact that they don’t want providers to create evidence specifically for Inspection or funding compliance. They often use the phrase 'naturally occurring evidence' in this context, the idea being that if you are delivering high-quality learning as defined by the EIF, the evidence of this should be created as an integral part of that delivery. 

The biggest change in terms of Ofsted inspection is that no matter how much ‘evidence’ you generate, if your learners don’t have a positive learning experience, the curriculum deep dives will expose that gap.  

Your ILPs should be a key tool in enabling your team to deliver (as the EIF puts it) the knowledge, skills and cultural capital they need to succeed in life – and be a key tool to evidence that at Ofsted inspection. 

5 steps to create an effective ILP: Read the blog


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