'Lack of support' for apprentices with disabilities

A third of apprentices have a learning difficulty or disability – but proper support is rarely in place, finds research

Kate Parker

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A third of apprentices across the UK have learning difficulties or disabilities (LDD) – but only a fraction have been diagnosed, research reveals.

Research published today by Cognassist shows that up to 15 per cent of apprentices are dropping out of their programmes because their needs are not being identified and the right support is not being applied for and allocated. 

Cognassist analysed the cognitive abilities of more than 30,000 apprentice learners aged between 19 and 60 – and found that while official government figures report that one in 10 learners self-identify with a LDD, up to 35 per cent of apprentices have a neurodiverse learning difficulty.


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Chris Quickfall, chief executive at Cognassist, said unidentified learning needs could expose learners to unnecessary stress and anxiety

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He said: Earlier this year, the Department for Education revealed that the overall achievement rate for apprenticeships fell last year by 2 percentage points to 65 per cent. The decline followed three years where just over two-thirds of apprentices managed to pass their courses. I have no doubt that the lack of reasonable adjustments for LDD learners had a role to play in such consistently low achievement rates.

“All decision-makers need to ensure they are doing their part to implement reasonable adjustments and create more inclusive learning environments that consider learners’ individual needs. The truth is that many people are unaware of the importance and impact of reasonable adjustments.

“The sector needs to improve its learners’ journey and make their education, especially end-point assessment, fairer for all. We can do more to break down barriers to learning and ensure all learners receive the help that they need to achieve success. 

“It’s vital that employers help to remove the stigma associated with learning difficulties and disabilities to provide equal opportunities and access to employment."

Entitlement to additional support

The research found that in London 44 per cent of apprentices are entitled to additional support and yet 33 per cent aren’t having it requested by their employers, training providers or end-point assessors. It also found that learners across the North East appear most aware of their support needs, but as many as one in five (21 per cent) could still be missing out on extra funding to help them successfully complete their apprenticeship.

Apprentices working in construction are least likely to consider themselves as needing extra support. Less than 7 per cent think they have a learning difficulty, disability or health problem – but the new analysis suggests that an additional two in five might benefit from reasonable adjustments. 

The report also highlights that an additional 3,501 of last year’s care worker and nursing apprentice cohort would have been allowed reasonable adjustment funding, had a claim been submitted.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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