Partners in Learning – BTEC Level 3 Advanced Certificate for education support staff

For most children vision is the most important channel for communication and understanding, so learning with little or no sight presents significant challenges to established ways of teaching. As a teacher, teaching assistant, support worker or early years practitioner, you fulfil a crucial role in understanding and meeting the needs of a blind or partially sighted learner in your setting.

Next intake: February 2018

Partners in Learning course, which was developed in conjunction with the Open University, can provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to provide a high level of education for the learners with whom you work.

The course, which is accredited as a BTEC advanced certificate at level 3, is the only UK-wide accredited training designed for education support staff working with blind and partially sighted learners. In recognition of its excellence, several local authorities have made Partners in Learning a mandatory qualification for teaching assistants employed in their visual impairment support services.

Apply by filling in and returning the following application form:

Key features of the course:

  • BTEC course (level 3) developed between RNIB and the Open University.
  • Uses a blended learning approach of online study and discussion activities.
  • Includes two face-to-face training days.
  • Consists of six units studied over 12 months  (as part of a group so plenty of contact with others).
  • Begins February 2018 – introductory training day will be held at different locations according to your preference (subject to numbers): Leeds, London, Birmingham.
  • Cost: £875 (£750 VIEW members)

What does the course cover?

Partners in Learning seeks to challenge you to consider your current practice, share and develop this with others in the field, and apply your new understanding to your working situation. You are asked to actively use your learning in a variety of practical ways and to implement your developing knowledge of best practice with colleagues and learners in your own setting.

Learning Outcomes

The Partners in Learning course will allow you to:
•    understand visual impairment and its implications for educational and social development
•    learn a range of skills and techniques to support learners and promote their independence both in and out of the classroom
•    develop an understanding of team work and its importance in effective practice.
develop a positive working relationship with learners which promotes their independence and engages them in planning and decision making.

Learning Pathways

The course is modular and enables you to register for one of the following pathways, so you can specialise in the area that is most appropriate to the children or young people you support:
•    Visual impairment: principal disability: This pathway is suitable for those working with children and young people whose visual impairment is their main or only disability, usually in a mainstream school or setting.
•    Visual impairment: complex needs: This pathway is suitable for those working with children and young people with significant additional needs as well as visual impairment, usually in a special school or setting.
•    Visual impairment: early years: This pathway is suitable for all practitioners working with young children from birth to five years, with or without additional needs, in the home or early years settings.

How is the course delivered?

Partners in Learning is studied over a calendar year. The course is predominantly delivered online, but includes two training days, one at the start of the course and the other half way through. Training days are held at a regional location within reach of all students. Special arrangements can be made for students whose circumstances mean they are unable to attend both training days.

The blended course runs over three terms and is divided into six units, each estimated to involve around 30 hours of study. The units include:
•    provision, roles and responsibilities
•    vision and visual impairment
•    effective practice
•    curriculum access
•    communication skills in a learning environment
•    independence and social inclusion.

Assessment

Assessment is via regular assignments, online discussions and factual tests. Each unit includes the following elements:
•    online self study activities assessed by an online multiple choice test
•    online group discussion activities which enable you to engage and share your learning with other students
•    short written assignments encouraging you to apply your learning from the unit to your own situation.

What are the benefits?

Benefits of the blended learning course include:
•    leads to national qualification (level 3 BTEC)
•    flexible online access
•    detailed timetable of activities
•    extensive course materials set out over six units
•    varied approach to learning and assessment
•    frequent online discussions with fellow students
•    regular online contact with experienced tutor
•    specialist pathways to reflect different professional contexts
•    fewer training days involving less travel.

Partners in Learning leads to a customised BTEC Level 3 Advanced Certificate entitled “Working with learners with visual impairment in educational settings”. It does not meet the requirements of the mandatory qualification for teachers of children with visual impairment.

Who is the course for?

The course is suitable for any education professional that works with blind or partially sighted children and young people, including teachers, teaching assistants, support workers and early years practitioners.

Entry requirements

You should be able to provide evidence of the following:
•    education to GCSE standard, NVQ Level 2 or equivalent experience or qualifications
•    working on a regular basis with one or more children or young people with visual impairment for the duration of the course
•    regular access to broadband internet and email facilities
•    employer support for the period of your training.

When can I start the course?

The next planned online course will start in February 2018.

The introductory training day will be held at different locations according to your preference.

  • Leeds 
  • London 
  • Birmingham.

Apply by filling in and returning the following application form:

For further information contact courses@viewweb.org.uk

Feedback from the field

Managers’ views

Janice Lunn, Senior Advisory Teacher for VI in Wakefield, has trained 10 staff on the course in recent years:
“Partners in Learning gives support staff a qualification which recognises their specialism. It offers an opportunity to network with support staff in other LAs on a regular basis and share expertise and knowledge. But I think its greatest benefit is confirming to experienced staff that they are doing a great job with the kids and that they already know much more than they think they do.”

Jane Booth, Headteacher of Ash Field School in Leicester said:
“The course has provided an experienced teaching assistant with a very interesting focus and a high level of challenge. At school, we have been able to use her expertise to make significant changes in our provision for several pupils. This has involved making and adapting teaching resources and approaches and thinking creatively about the learning environment for pupils with visual impairment. The course is clearly very practical and motivating. A further ‘spin off’ of is that many of the newly acquired skills and knowledge have been shared in a very positive way with other teaching and support staff.”

Students’ views

“This was a very high quality course, every task is relevant, every part of it worthwhile.”

“I have benefited greatly from this course. I felt that I have not only re-affirmed what I am doing as Curriculum Access Specialist is correct, but also learnt so much more through the self-learning and discussions with others. I found the content of the course valuable and through all the links provided I can carry on with my own research and look into other aspects to which I am drawn.”

“I just wanted to say a personal ‘Thank You’ for such a great course! I have learnt so much and definitely know that doing PIL will help me to improve my working practice. I am actually a bit gutted it has finished!”

“The course was brilliant, I would certainly recommend anyone working with VI children that get the chance to do the course to do so. I will miss it. Thank you all for putting so much into it for us.”

“I found this excellent course motivating and thought provoking, thank you all for all the support and encouragement, I hope it makes me far more sensitive and effective supporting the visually impaired students I work with.”