Initial assessment of learners

The 1st4sport Quality Management Team has recently been investigating a number of complaints and appeals relating to the initial assessment of learners (or lack of it) by recognised centres.

The Qualification Specification for each qualification details the specific requirements for initial assessment of learners and states that:

Centres must have a system in place to ensure that an initial assessment of each learner is conducted. In doing so, they should establish each learner’s eligibility to access the qualification, and that learners’ achievement is evaluated and confirmed to ensure an appropriate learning strategy for each person.

The requirements for an initial assessment of a learner can be split into five categories:

1. Learner prerequisites to registration and certification

All qualifications have prerequisites to registration that must be adhered to. It is important that centres confirm and audit that these prerequisites have been met by each learner prior to accepting their application to join a course/cohort.

Some of our qualifications also have prerequisites to certification. Although these do not need to be confirmed at the point of application, it is recommended that centres make learners aware of the prerequisites at this stage so learners can identify whether they will be able to meet these prerequisites within the registration period of the qualification. Particular care should be taken to ensure learners who are below the minimum age for registration (or certification) are not recruited on to programmes. This can lead to frustration on the part of the learner when we reject their registration for a programme that they may already have paid for and in some cases begun.

2. Recognised prior learning (RPL)

RPL gives learners an opportunity to identify evidence of prior learning and experience that may contribute to their achievement of a qualification. Centres should evaluate the evidence submitted and reference it against the learning outcomes of the qualification. Following this evaluation, an individual learning strategy needs to be agreed, identifying elements of the learning programme that learners do not have to attend due to their RPL. Please note that RPL does not provide evidence towards achievement of the assessment criteria for the qualification, and learners need to be made aware that they will be required to complete all of the assessment components of the qualification.

The granting of RPL is at the discretion of the centre and may not be appropriate due to the programme format (eg holistic learning). Learners should be made aware of this before initiating the RPL process.

It is recognised that assessing RPL can be a complex and time-consuming activity, and therefore, centres may wish to charge for this service. Your 1st4sport EV is available to assist you in developing appropriate RPL systems.

3. Credit accumulation and transfer (CAT)

CAT refers to the process of using credits awarded in the context of one QCF unit towards the achievement and requirements of another. Credit transfer may also be used in the achievement of an SCQF qualification. It is essential that CAT is considered per qualification, and you must ensure you check the Qualification Specification requirements to establish whether any learners are eligible after you have conducted an initial assessment and reviewed their current achievements.

4. Barriers to access

The Qualification Specification for each individual qualification details the potential barriers to access for learners (ie conditions that could prevent a learner from meeting the assessment requirements of the qualification). These potential barriers are confirmed in order to preserve the integrity of the qualification, the technical requirements, and the safety of learners and participants. Where barriers are identified for an individual learner, the centre should identify, in liaison with the learner, whether any reasonable adjustments to assessment could be applied to enable the learner to attend.

The keyword here is ‘reasonable’, and centres are within their rights to refuse a learner access to a qualification where it is felt that, following initial assessment, the barriers cannot be reasonably overcome.

5. Reasonable adjustments for training and assessment

Learners should be encouraged to declare any special needs they may have that could affect their ability to complete the learning programme and/or assessments. These should be identified at the application stage, and centres should make it clear to learners that if special needs are not declared at this stage, centres may not be able to apply any adjustments to assessment at a later stage. Centres are required to identify, in liaison with the learner, what adjustments to assessment are required. This should be done prior to the course starting to enable the adjustments to be applied. Where reasonable adjustments are identified, 1st4sport Qualifications needs to be informed so the adjustments can be approved, but also monitored and evaluated.

Again, the keyword here is ‘reasonable’. Requested adjustments to assessment need to be able to meet the needs of the individual learner without giving them an unfair advantage over learners who do not require any adjustments.


Centres are encouraged to implement an appropriate system for assessing learners at the application stage as, should a learner submit a complaint or appeal based on any of the points raised above, the centre would need to provide evidence that an initial assessment had taken place and details of the content and outcomes of that initial assessment. Failure to have an appropriate initial assessment system constitutes non-compliance with centre requirements and could result in sanctions being applied to the centre.

For further details on the initial assessment of learners specific to individual qualifications, please refer to the relevant Qualification Specification (Section three – Requirements for initial assessment of learners and their inductions).
Your 1st4sport EV is also available as a source of advice/guidance relating to all of the points detailed above.