Progress reviews take place in several inspection contexts. Essentially they are a point in time when all parties involved in training take a step back and look at the progress being made by a learner towards completing their individual learning plan. They also involve setting targets to further complete the plan. In work-based learning they occur in the workplace and involve the employer. They check learner welfare, progress in training, while reinforcing equality of opportunity and health and safety

How does the way you use progress reviews to support learners compare with that of the most effective provision seen on inspection?

The following strengths and areas for improvement have been taken from recent inspection reports across the Ofsted Learning and Skills remit.

Common inspection strengths

  • Effective progress reviews and target-setting
  • Good progress review and monitoring arrangements
  • Thorough reviews of learners' progress

Common inspection areas for improvement

  • Inadequate progress reviews
  • Weak target-setting for learners
  • Slow progress by some learners

If you were given a similar area for improvement bullet at the end of your last inspection, self assessed this area as an area for improvement, or want to work to avoid such areas for improvement, then consider what inspectors judge to be key.

Particularly effective practice identified in inspections includes:

  • Training staff who will conduct reviews so that their purpose is fully understood, not assuming that 'anyone' can conduct them well.
  • Some providers have a 'review champion' or lead member of staff who others can check with, or ask for further guidance. This person keeps up-to-date, maintaining external links, attending training events and may be involved in observing reviews.
  • Ensuring that all those involved in reviews (even if they do not carry them out) have received an induction and know the purpose and value of such reviews.
  • Having effective links between progress reviews and individual learning plans. Whatever the inspection context, learners need a plan setting out their long-term learning goals, so that checks on progress towards completing their plan can be made.
  • Booking progress reviews in advance to ensure that all parties who should be involved can be involved (using texts, emails or postcards to remind learners and employers of review meetings closer to the time).
  • Ensuring that the most appropriate people attend the reviews. In work-based training the employer representative best involved in reviews is the one who can facilitate on-the-job training and assessment opportunities (this may be the main employer or a member of staff designated as the main trainer for a learner). In Workstep providers this might be advisors and workplace mentors.
  • Holding reviews more frequently for learning who require learning or additional support.
  • Arranging additional reviews if learners fall behind or require more guidance towards the end of a training programme. Some providers use this to 'fast-track' some learners with an urgent need to complete their training early (for example pregnancy, or leaving an area).
  • Having a reporting structure in place so that those leading the progress review know the full performance of the learner at the provider (from all classes attended in a college or from practical, key skills, additional support and theoretical or background knowledge classes in work-based learning), as well as attendance and punctuality of the learner. This enables a well-informed review to take place.
  • Using progress review meetings to check the progress that a learner has made against their individual learning plan and to plan in detail the training that they are to receive between the current and next progress review meetings. This should cover all aspects of the programme, including, where appropriate, on- and off-the-job training, or any additional support.
  • Checking whether any extra additional support is required above that being given, including support for assessment in the workplace.
  • Holding progress review meetings regularly and sufficiently frequently to maintain momentum (not just to meet contractual requirements).
  • Using the meetings to monitor progress, identifying causes if it is slow, and increasing the frequency of meetings in response.
  • Recording progress and targets clearly for the period until the next review meeting. In some providers learners record their required actions in a log book that they can 'check' or cross-through as they complete them. Breaking larger targets down into a series of short understandable required actions has helped improve learner progress in many providers.
  • Sharing written copies of review outcomes with learners (and employers in work-based learning) and referring to them between reviews.
  • Some colleges post reviews of learner progress on intranet websites that parents/guardians can access (including punctuality, attendance and test scores).
  • Using the meeting to reinforce key messages on health and safety and equality of opportunity, particularly in the workplace. Many work-based providers make good use of questions and scenarios to further develop learner understanding.
  • Giving learners and employers contact details that can be used easily between reviews to answer any queries that may arise.
  • Ensuring that progress review meetings are included as part of quality improvement procedures and activities. Copies of paperwork are checked for their impact on learners, such as clearness of targets, use of individual learning plans and progress towards completing them. Observation is used to check the effectiveness of reviews, identify good practice or to suggest improvements. Annual programme reviews look at progress reviews and adjust paperwork and working practices as necessary.
  • In Adult and Community Learning, knowing what progress each learner is making, achieved through group or individual discussion.
  • In learndirect, ensuring that time is allocated at the end of a session for a brief but focused review.

Healthcheck questions

Health check

What training have staff who conduct progress reviews received?

How are reviews included as part of induction for learners (and employers)?

How is their importance covered in handbooks for learners (and employers)?

How does your planning for when progress reviews should take place reflect the needs of individual learners?

How do you monitor that  progress review meetings are held when they are supposed to be?

How do you check that actions and targets set at one meeting are reviewed at the next?

How do you check that learners and employers understand the targets set at progress reviews?

How are additional support needs included at progress review meetings?

Can you show that individual learning plans are amended at progress review meetings?

How do those involved at the meetings receive a copy of the review record?

How do you know that those involved find the progress review meetings useful?

Depending on the age of learners, how do you keep the parents/guardians of learners informed about progress?

How are  progress review meetings included as part of quality improvement procedures and activities?

Does this give you information on both the completion of review paperwork and the actual process?

What could you do next to improve your provision?

  • Read inspection reports to identify what the best providers are doing in your particular type of provision or area of learning (also check other types of provision as good practice is usually transferable between inspection contexts - adult and community learning, college, DWP, work-based, etc). As well as looking at providers with ‘outstanding’ aspects or monitoring visit reports with judgements of ‘significant progress’, look at providers who are similar to yourself in terms of remit, size and what they offer – Ofsted inspection reports
  • Get a clearer and richer understanding of what you need to do to improve – Learner-centred self-assessment
  • Use downloadable quality-improvement resources to develop your staff team and to focus on actions that will help to improve your provision – Actions for quality improvement
  • Adopt or adapt the best bits of other providers’ work that inspection has identified as being particularly effective – Ofsted good practice database examples
  • Measure just how effective your initial-assessment system is and if your quality-improvement initiatives are working – Data projects
  • Develop a blueprint for initial assessment of your learners – Initial assessment and support
  • Check whether your self-assessment report is fit for purpose – Self-assessment surgery projects
  • Use the guidance developed by Ofsted to know what to expect in order to prepare for inspection, look at the Ofsted inspection handbook for your remit or the inspection toolkit – use the search box if necessary - inspection handbooks and toolkit
  • Use the Excellence Gateway as a first ‘port of call’ when researching areas that you would like to improve. As well as the Ofsted-related area, simple word searches will bring you a variety of information about what others in the learning and skills sector are doing to improve their provision. This is particularly useful for any newer areas that you may wish to research.