There is a difference between learner support and learning support. Learner support relates to help the learner might need with any personal issues, and/or general advice and guidance such as financial support, transport or childcare. Learning support relates to the subject or qualification being taken, or help with English, maths, ICT and/or study skills. Think of learner support as anything that supports the learner, and learning support as anything that supports the learning process.

If you are a trainer or assessor, at some point you might have a learner requiring support for something. Some learners will have needs, barriers or challenges that may affect their attendance, progress and/or achievement. If you can ascertain these prior to your learners commencing, you should be able to refer them to someone that can help. However, other issues may occur during their time with you which you would need to manage. You would therefore need to plan a suitable course of action to help your learners, or refer them to an appropriate specialist or agency, to alleviate any impact upon their progress and learning.

When your learners commence, you should take the opportunity to explain the range of services and agencies that are available to assist with any specific learner or learning needs. Never feel you have to solve any learner problems yourself, and don't get personally involved, always remain professional. You will need to find out what is available internally within your organisation or where you could refer your learners externally. You may encounter learners with varying degrees of needs; therefore you should remain impartial, but sensitive.
Some learners may have specific learning difficulties relating to language and skill development, for example:
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – a disorder where learners have difficulty controlling their behaviour without medication or behavioural therapy.

  • autistic spectrum disorder/Asperger's syndrome – difficulty with social interaction and with abstract concepts
  • dyscalculia – difficulty with calculations or maths
  • dysgraphia – difficulty with handwriting
  • dyslexia – difficulty with processing written language
  • dyspraxia – poor motor co-ordination or clumsiness.

You will need to consider any particular requirements of your learners, to ensure they can all participate during sessions. Initial assessment would ensure your learners are able to take the subject; however, you (or the organisation) may need to make reasonable adjustments to adapt resources, delivery and assessment materials, equipment, or the environment to support them (as stated in the Equality Act 2010). If anything is adapted, make sure both you and your learners are familiar with the changes prior to use. You might need to check with your awarding organisation if your learners are working towards an accredited qualification.

It's important that you are aware of any situations in order to support your learners fully, both at the planning stage and throughout their programme of learning Sometimes, your learners may talk to you in confidence about their concerns. If you are unsure how to help, just ask your learners what you can do; they are best able to explain how you can help make their learning experience a positive one.

Examples of potential needs and possible points of referral

Potential need resulting from:

Possible point of referral:

access to, or fear of using technology

learning resource centre, local library or internet café, specialist colleagues and/or other training programmes

alcohol or substance misuse

telephone helplines

relevant support agencies

childcare concerns

childcare agencies

death in the family

bereavement support agencies

emotional or psychological problems

health centres, general practitioners

Samaritans or other relevant professionals

English as a second or other language

interpreters, bilingual staff or other specialist colleagues

financial issues

banks, building societies

Citizens Advice Bureau

specialist colleagues with knowledge of funding, grants and loans

health concerns

health centres, general practitioners, hospitals

NHS Choices website

limited basic skills such as English and maths

specialist colleagues

online programmes

training centres

transport problems

public transport websites

Uncertainty as to which career path to take

specialist colleagues 

National Careers Service

Technological advances have made an enormous difference to learners who have particular needs, enabling them to access suitable learning opportunities. This is true for learners who have physical or sensory impairments, and also for those who have dyslexia or other learning difficulties. Technology can provide a means of access to learning for those who:

  • are blind or partially sighted
  • are deaf or have partial hearing
  • have a degenerative condition which is physically tiring
  • have difficulty in speaking
  • have difficulty with manipulation and fine motor control.

How effective the use of technology will be depends on the results of effective initial assessment. This should be followed up by regular reviews of learners' progress. Using technology also requires technicians and competent support staff to train both teachers and learners how to use it.

This text has been adapted from Gravells A The Award in Education and Training (2014) London Learning Matters SAGE Publications Ltd

This article is copyright Ann Gravells.

The next article from Ann Gravells will be: Agreeing ground rules with learners

Ann Gravells is an author, creator of teacher training resources and an education consultant - she can be contacted via her website:

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page