The Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy

Achieving outstanding outcomes by solving issues with initial assessment, target setting, differentiation and support.

Available in-person or online. Next open, online session:

  • Location     Zoom
  • Date            tbc (please contact for bespoke options)
  • Time           13:00 – 16:30
  • Cost            £39

To book onto this session, please click the Request Invoice  (if you are an organisation) or PayPal  (if you are an individual). To request an invoice for larger bookings, please drop me a line.
Please remember to add the name, organisation and email address of the delegates so that the joining instructions can be forwarded. Please also add any discount codes you wish to apply to this booking.

[Please note that you can pay by credit card via the PayPal button. Simply choose the PayPal option, then select the grey ‘Check Out’ option in the shopping cart.] 

Typical inspection issues

  • Teachers do not use the assessments of learners’ starting points to plan learning effectively. They plan too much activity that is the same for all learners irrespective of their ability.
  • Teachers and assessors do not set students and apprentices clear or specific enough targets to help them know what they need to do to improve and make progress.


The Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy is a half-day session.

Information for event organisers

Initial assessment is far wider than English and maths and should identify any and every reason a learner may under-perform or leave early. It should lead to an individual learning plan (ILP) that sets out a clear starting point, the learner’s unique support needs, and the conditions all parties should work towards to ultimately achieve and celebrate the learner’s independence of this support.

Informed by the ILPs, learner profiles should set out the differentiation challenge for teaching teams – not the differentiation of teachers’ expectations, but the strategies and resources required for all learners to achieve outstanding outcomes. These outcomes should then be set out clearly in lesson plans – not as a list of activities (which then turns assessment into an audit of ‘what has been done’), but a clear articulation of how learners should be different by the end of the lesson.

Supported by comprehensive resources, this thoroughly planned, experiential session models eight of the strategies under consideration, including target setting and differentiated support. The session also includes a summary of each teaching strategy and clear next steps for delegates to continue the development of their work after the session. This work is also supported by access to all session resources, and more, on the Centre for Creative Quality Improvement’s website.

Information for potential delegates

If you read many inspection reports you may be forgiven for thinking that Ofsted cuts and pastes weaknesses from a limited central database of gripes: ‘Insufficient individualisation of learning’; ‘Poor use of target setting’; ‘Insufficient progress from learners’ initial starting points’; ‘Insufficient stretch and challenge’. This can lead providers to create a new layer of ‘must dos’ for teachers, and add yet more pressure on an already stressful job.

But if we stand back for a moment and look at the issues from first principles, there is a wonderful and logical narrative that too often gets lost in the blur of bureaucracy.

Using all of the teaching strategies it is promoting, this session gives concrete models and experience of pragmatic solutions to Ofsted’s concerns. At the end of the session, delegates take away a set of illustrative strategies they have worked through, along with a summary of each to aid adaption to their own situations. This session should spell the end of the Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy.

This session will enable delegates to:

  • set out a strategy to identify and articulate all potential barriers that may lead a learner to underperform or leave early
  • design differentiated support strategies to enable all learners to achieve outstanding outcomes
  • write learning outcomes that avoid the common errors
  • set out the indicators and strategy they will use to evaluate the extent to which learning barriers are being removed.

What the delegates say

  • For an overview of feedback on this session, please click here.

These comments can be invaluable when generating curiosity about forthcoming training.

  • ‘It will help me deliver initial assessment differently. Furthermore, it has enabled me to be more aware of the barriers that hinder independent learning. I feel more confident in building appropriate learning outcomes.’ The Learning Foundry
  • ‘Putting my glasses on for the first time and seeing the detail in a Van Gogh!’ Liverpool Adult Learning Service
  • ‘Totally blew my mind! In a good way. A passion to learn is a deep seeded fire in all of us. A teacher can become the extinguisher or igniter of those flames. This course is petrol.’ NPTC Consortium of Work-based Providers
  • ‘Reupholstering.’ West Lancashire College
  • ‘The imagery of the scaffold was clear and I had never thought about support in this way.’ West Thames College
  • ‘You have re-instated my faith in training! Thank you.’ Wirral Council Lifelong Learning Service


The Initial Assessment and Differentiation Controversy is a 3.5-hour session.


To discuss your requirements in detail, please phone or drop us a line.


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