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The Learning Quality Framework

Guides the long-term learning journey of a school that aspires to make world-class learning its prime educational goal. It captures the essence of what a learning school does to ensure that all its people – staff and students – become better learners.

Do you aspire to:

Nurture independent lifellong learners, prepared for the challenges of 21st Century living?
Surpass Ofsted’s new expectations for teaching and learning, with ease and confidence?
Make world-class learning your educational goal?
Create a learning-friendly culture?
Using the learning sciences to redesign your school’s educational core?

The Framework will help you to:

Evolve a curriculum that engages, challenges and inspires – equipping young people with the values, insights and skills to lead their own learning.
Create a learning-oriented culture that delivers higher achievement all round.
Establish a coherent approach to expanding intelligence, empowering learners, and strengthening learning character.
Develop leadership approaches that support innovation, build independence and responsibility, and monitor practice to improve the quality of learning.
Dispel myths about learning and use well founded research to grow the teacher’s role in fostering more intelligent learners.

How do you:

  • ensure your students become independent lifelong learners?
  • broaden the approach to education in your school?
  • build a coherent approach to learning?
  • base your approach to learning on research from the learning sciences?
  • make sure all learners are winners in your school?
  • pioneer 21st century education?

The Learning Quality Framework makes this vital and difficult ambition DO-ABLE.

The Learning Quality Framework guides the long-term learning journey of a school that aspires to make world-class learning its prime educational goal. It captures the essence of what a learning school does to ensure that all its people – staff and students – become better learners.

Whatever your current approaches to learning — be they Philosophy for Children, Assessment for Learning, SEAL, PLTS, Building Learning Power, Successful Futures, Habits of Mind, or RSA Opening Minds — The Learning Quality Framework guides the school in blending and infusing them into a coherent learning culture and strategy.

The LQF supports a leaning journey to meet a quality standard. The school makes the journey but the standard shows you the whole journey and alerts you to hazards. Resources and consultancy guide your progression through its stages, and the award of a Quality Mark recognises and rewards your foresight and effort.

A PowerPoint Presentation which outlines the Learning Quality Framework is available to download and use via this link: LQF_Presentation.ppt

Where might the journey start?

Perhaps a school has realised there may be a bigger goal for education, that it might actually be cultivating habits of dependency in students through too much spoon feeding; or perhaps an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ judgement is not backed up by Outstanding teaching and learning; or perhaps Outstanding is a long way off, but the school is serious about getting there. For any of these schools, the LQF offers the basis for a radical re-think of their vision for learning.

A serious learning challenge

A school that takes on the Learning Quality Framework will be embarking on possibly the most challenging change process it has ever encountered. The Framework is not a quick fix to raise examination results. Rather it is the basis for thoughtful planning, aimed at what will be for most schools, a significant change in culture. It is a deeply formative framework rather than a set of hoops to be jumped through.

Using the Learning Quality Framework helps the school to:

  • shine a light on both the formal and informal learning processes of the school
  • align key processes to expand young people’s and the school’s capacity and appetite to learn
  • blend culture change in school, habit change by teachers and learning habit formation by students
  • save hours of thinking time yet be treated professionally: stimulating your thinking rather than doing it for you
  • gain a Learning Quality Mark, giving public recognition to the school’s pioneering efforts.

Here are just some of the views of people who have used the framework.

1) Bringing order to chaos

It made sense of my random thoughts. We have been struggling to think about what we needed to do next. We had lots of ideas but they were random and disorganised. The framework has drawn these all together. It’s the school’s plan for the future” Secondary School DH, Solihull

This is my development plan for the next five years.” Primary HT, Winchester

It gives us a very clear (but not easy) picture of the dynamic nature of learning. I know what classrooms need to be like now and we will gradually work towards this.” Primary School DH

Aha! Now I see where I am going; it all makes sense. This gives me the big picture. We have been working in a small area of this and when you are working down in the detail you lose sight of the whole. This gives me a route map for so many aspects of school life.” Secondary School DH, Birmingham

It will probably save SLT about 100 hours of thinking time. This framework has organised so many things about learning into a format that we can use with all staff.” Secondary School Assistant HT

It makes sense of so much of what we have been thinking about for a while. It’s as though our bitty incoherent thoughts have been plucked out of our heads and straightened out into something really useful.” Secondary School DH

2) Re-energising effort

We have been working with learning to learn for a little while now but it had started to fizzle out because we were unsure what to do next – how to grow it. This framework shows what we need to do – it’s the anti-freeze, giving the help we have needed/wanted.” Primary School HT

It’s really useful but the best thing is that its not a tick the box framework. It stimulates thinking rather than doing all the thinking for you. It gets you curious to find out more. We’ve had enough of being told what to do. This framework treats us like professionals. It guides you to find your own way through a long and challenging process.” Secondary School DH

It will be helpful to any school, irrespective of where they are on their journey.” Primary School DH

3) Upping the challenge

I didn’t know I was looking for this – now I’ve found it I don’t know how I could ever have functioned without it.” Primary School HT, Warwickshire

Our school wasn’t challenged by Ofsted. This framework gives us a whole new challenge – something worth working towards.” Grammar School HT

We owe the next generation more than we give them now. This framework shows us how to do that.” Academy HT

4) Flying the colours

We will use this framework to guide our journey and we will want our progress validating. Going for assessment at various milestones or staging posts will be our way of celebrating that progress.” Secondary School HT

At first I thought “We’ll just use this very useful framework by ourselves quietly. We don’t need to go for any external assessment.” But then I revised that idea. I realized that having a level in view and working towards recognition would give added impetus and purpose to our endeavours. We wanted to become that Silver Level school and we wanted to be recognized for our effort and expertise. This award gives public recognition that we are a different sort of school. We are ‘nailing our learning colours to the mast.’ Primary School HT

The Learning Quality Framework guides the long-term learning journey of a school that aspires to make world-class learning its prime educational goal. It captures the essence of what a learning school does to ensure that all its people — staff and students — become better learners.

The Learning Quality Framework has three aspects, which together, help scaffold the school’s learning journey:

  • at its heart is the Learning Quality Standard, a quality standard that captures how key aspects of a school’s culture link together to assist in developing learning and learners.
  • external progress review and verification processes help to bring focus and motivation that propel, progress and recognise the school’s action.
  • materials and consultancy assist the school in understanding the standard, diagnosing current practice, drawing up an action plan and monitoring its own development.

The Learning Quality Framework  guides and progresses the long-term learning journey of a school that wants to:

  • build young people’s mental, emotional and social resources to enjoy challenge and cope well with uncertainty and complexity
  • use the learning sciences to re-think and renew the school’s educational core
  • operate as a learning organisation
  • play a more expansive educational game

The Learning Quality Framework translates these challenging aspirations into practical descriptions of what the school needs to be like along the way to realising them. Such ambitions may call for wide-ranging adaptations in the culture of a school, so the framework encompasses issues not only of pedagogy but of leadership, professional development, curriculum, parents and community, and more.

It is increasingly evident that the educational methods that we have been using for the past 70 years no longer suffice. They are based on scientific assumptions about … the learning process that have been eclipsed by new discoveries. Yet changing them has been slow because the nature of educational reform is largely one of tinkering with institutional arrangements. Rarely has reform penetrated the educational core” Professor Lauren Resnick.

The Learning Quality Framework is designed to help a school review and re-design its educational core using research from the learning sciences to guide its development.

Additional Resources

A PowerPoint Presentation which outlines the Learning Quality Framework is available to download and use via this link: LQF_ppt_Website_11-05-2012.ppt

The school works through its action plan, which will have followed on from the initial diagnosis/audit, or an external review of progress, or a level-verification report written by the external assessor.

  • Bronze: the school undertakes a range of small-scale learning enquiries to help their understanding of how learning works, laying the foundations for later levels.
  • Silver: the school is nailing its learning colours to the mast, determining and spreading its learning strategy into ever widening aspects of school life.
  • Gold: the approaches are deeply embedded in the school, teachers are highly skilled in expanding learning behaviours, and students benefit from being skilled, self-reflective learners.
  • Platinum: the school uses its own initiative and sets its own goals; it must prove its own achievement rather than be assessed against pre-established criteria.

School Development GuideThe School Development Guide

The Guide offers explanations of the ideas that lie behind each aspect of the LQF. It provides rich and essential information to ensure success both in planning and in taking action.

This 120 page guide contains sections that:

  • unpack each dimension


  •  explain each principle

  • give a brief explanation of each indicator

  1. indicator
  2. explanation
  • give ideas, examples and suggestions of what each indicator means in practice, and how to be sure your practice is robust.

  1. The indicator
  2. A brief explanation
  3. What this level indicator is about and what this means in practice
  4. Things that will indicate you have reached this stage; questions to ask yourself.

Desk-top Review

The Level Assessment Chart (LAC) is a condensed version of the audit tool, focusing solely on the level at which the school wishes to be assessed.

The school populates the chart with short statements of practice against each indicator and notes about where evidence of this might be found. This information will have been drawn from the school’s full up-to-date Audit Tool 2. The LAC is the first substantive document that the assessor will use in building up a picture of the school.

When the school feels ready for assessment, the Level Assessment Chart is sent electronically to TLO for initial scrutiny. This is a free checking service to make sure that the school appears to have sufficient evidence to warrant an assessment and to remove any chance of an invalid assessment.

The school’s personalised Level Assessment Chart is passed to an assessor and used by them to plan the assessment visit.

Assembling the LAC is the first step in a valuable, non-bureaucratic assessment and accreditation process.

The LQF review and verification processes are designed to:

  • bring focus and motivation to the school’s action planning. Many schools feel that working towards externalverification brings greater purpose and urgency to implementing change.
  • be anything but bureaucratic and box-ticking. Some schools can be put off external verification because of the extra time it seems to soak up in preparing portfolios. The review or verification processes do demand evidence, but it is the evidence that the school itself will need in guiding and self-assessing its own development.
  • be exacting and worthwhile. At each level, the LQF indicators are exacting, and the review process seeks evidence against known criteria.  The LQF may well be the most challenging change process the school has encountered which is what makes it worth pursuing.
  • be rigorous and cost effective. The process is conducted in a very professional and non-threatening manner. All assessors have undergone a rigorous training programme and are skilled in what they do. Different levels of the LQF are more demanding of time and effort and this is reflected in the time for in-school observation. Many of the processes before and after the on-site visit are automated to ensure cost-effectiveness.
  • be fair and consistent. The whole process is subject to stringent quality assurance procedures which are managed by TLO Limited and the awarding body, the Centre for Real-World Learning. These procedures will ensure that the assessment process is consistent across different types of school, across different types of approach to learning how to learn, and across the country.
  • be undertaken in your own time, at your own pace. Unlike OFSTED, it is up to the school to decide if and when it is ready to be assessed. If the school is unsure about its state of readiness, using the Level Assessment Chart and a free pre-assessment check will ensure the assessment process is not activated in vain.
  • be evaluative and forward looking. This assessment process is not just to look at ‘what-is’ but to evaluate whether what has been achieved, will be valuable in moving forward. It answers the question – is this …process, curriculum, teaching approach etc. rigorous or extensive enough to act as a springboard for moving to the next level? The assessment report underpins further long-term action planning.
  • be celebratory. Where insufficient evidence is found the assessment process is deferred. This is not a failure — it means the school’s practice does not reach all the requirements yet. The assessor will identify the gaps and will re-assess the school in six months. The award of a level of the LQF, formalised through certificates and logos, is something to celebrate and worthy of inclusive award ceremonies. Invite famous people to make the awards, and press coverage to make sure the community knows what the school stands for.

A free pre-assessment check of your Level Assessment Chart.

The Assessment Planning tool, to help you to prepare for assessment.

  • Phone and email support prior to assessment.
  • An assessor visit on site to conduct interviews, lesson observations, a school tour and documentation scrutiny.
  • The assessor’s report.
  • On successful assessment:
    • a letter of award
    • a framed certificate of award
    • electronic versions of the award logo for use on stationery, etc.

Accreditation lasts for three years from the date of assessment.

Desktop Review: Pre-verification check

In working with the Learning Quality Framework, the school is likely to have implemented its Action Plan in a holistic way. In so doing it is easy to lose track of the individual indicators — what has been achieved and what would prove this.

In deciding whether to seek verification of a level, the school is encouraged to simply note what has been done, and the evidence for this, in note form against each indicator at a particular level – using the Level Assessment Chart (LAC).

This process calls for clarity of thought on, and clear understanding of, what the school has been doing in relation to each indicator.

While the LAC is not proof that the LQF level has been achieved it does give a snapshot of progress.

To ensure the verification is timely and worthwhile, TLO offer a  pre-assessment check of a school’s LAC. The reported action and ideas of evidence will give a picture of whether the school would be wise to go for verification of the level or whether this should be delayed in order to first strengthen particular areas of practice.

Once your proposed verification has been ‘approved’ the school will be advised and a verifier will be appointed.

The On-site review or verification Visits

LQF-AwardsThe ‘assessment’ visits will last one day in a small primary school and up to three days in a large secondary school. The process will feel more ‘done-with’ than ‘done-to’ and in some cases staff may be involved in assisting with classroom observation.

The assessor will talk to senior and middle leaders, a cross-section of staff, and some students. In some cases parents and governors will also be involved.

At the end of the visit the assessor will give a verbal feed-back. For a level verification This is a provisional ‘assessment’ judgement, which will indicate whether the evidence provided by the school is sufficient for the selected award level.

Where the evidence is insufficient the assessment becomes ‘staged’. This gives the school the opportunity to return to the assessment process when it has responded to the identified shortfalls. The return on-site visit will only be concerned with the identified shortfalls unless significant changes have occurred within the school in the meantime.

Progress Report or Verification Report

These reports serve two functions.

Firstly summative. A report states the evidence observed and gives specific examples of how the school  either meets or has progressed towards an LQF level, principle by principle.

Secondly formative. While a report captures and celebrates good practice it also identifies where evidence may be adequate but a little thin for building the next stage. Recommendations are made for what the school needs to do to make sure of success either at the current or at the next level.

Extracts from level verification reports.

In order to develop further, the school should:

  • Audit existing schemes of learning to ensure that all learning skills are receiving sufficient coverage in teachers’ planning;
  • Consider how they will induct new students into the school’s language of learning, and how learning to learn will be planned for and delivered;
  • Ensure that split screen teaching is spread more widely and that leaning skills are discussed at the level of the 17 learning capacities;
  • Consider how to spread further the excellent practice observed in the lessons of lead teachers;
  • Audit schemes of learning to assess levels of challenge, and seek further evidence on this during learning walks;
  • Give attention to how it might involve students further in the design, delivery and monitoring of learning;
  • Consider and plan for how the school will further engage parents with the school’s learning agenda.

These recommendations relate to the Action dimension of LQF
This secondary school has been awarded Bronze level.

The school’s learning framework, which is understood by staff, is currently captured on paper as a diagram. The depth and sophistication of the framework needs now to be turned into a narrative in order to better inform school policies and clarify the way in which the school’s ‘toolbox’ capacities are developed.

This recommendation relates to the Commitment dimension of LQF.
This primary school has been awarded Silver level but on many indicators was close to Gold.

Award of Learning Quality Mark

Goldcertificate_BriarHillThe Learning Quality Mark is awarded in association with The Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester. TLO Limited and The Centre for Real-World Learning have joint responsibility for quality assuring this award.

The school can apply for this award when a level of the Learning Quality standard has been verified by an external assessor. This aspect is optional and will incur a small extra charge.

The awarding body  has to receive a copy of the school’s Level Assessment Chart alongside the verification report. Both are scrutinised to ensure consistency and fairness of judgments.

The school will then receive:

  • a copy of the verification report
  • a signed certificate for display
  • a letter of award confirming the Level of the award and the renewal date
  • a copy of the LQF logo with the award designation, for use on school stationery and websites, etc.

It is the awarding body that confirms the Level of Award and signs the certificate and letter of award.

Accreditation lasts for three years. A number of follow-on options are available:

  1. You can remain at your verified Level and improve your provision within it, responding to the assessor’s feedback and improvement points, and then renew your accreditation at that level before the three-year limit;
  2. You can use the Learning Quality Framework to develop your practice and progress towards a higher level over a time span of your choosing, up to a maximum of three years. You can seek accreditation at the higher level at any time within the three-year period.
  3. You can use the LQF as a development framework without seeking further accreditation. After three years your accreditation will lapse and the Awarding Body will issue a de-recognition letter which requires the school to remove the logo from all aspects of stationery, websites, etc. and to remove the certificate from public display.

Success Stories

  • How do schools experience the LQF journey?
  • What is their experience of assessment?
  • What does their Quality Mark accreditation mean to them?
  • Has the LQF journey and assessment been worthwhile?

Alderbrook Leading Edge School and Arts College

Making a start on learning

As a school we have been interested in learning for many years.  The start of our journey involved all staff and pupils gaining an understanding of a useful learning language and, from this, a learning pedagogy all staff could adopt. We then set about the business of nurturing and developing this terminology into personal, social, strategic and cognitive habits of learning. Two years in, with all staff trained in ‘building learning power’, classrooms were buzzing with a refreshed teaching methodology and a desire, in most teachers, to explore how learning habits could be exercised and through the subject content of the lesson.  For the great majority of teachers this made perfect sense and seemed to underpin all previous training for staff in all stages of their careers.

Losing momentum

A couple of years further down the line saw the ‘business’ of nurturing these skills in a large comprehensive school more difficult to sustain.  The initial ‘buzz’ was fading and although we had some significant strategies well embedded by teachers for whom learning sat at the heart of their day to day practice, we were acutely aware of a general ‘tiredness’. We witnessed and an increasing patchiness in practice as teachers lost momentum and returned to their default ‘subject content and nothing else’ delivery.  Whilst we sustained a successful ‘Learning 2 Learn’ course for our year 7s, we began to search for new ways to reinvigorate the focus on learning and dabbled with some fresh ideas. At a regional network meeting with other schools that had also introduced BLP into their schools around the same time, we discovered that they too seemed to be in the same ‘boat’.  We found ourselves with no models to follow or case studies to explore – and therefore no obvious pattern upon which to create a learning improvement plan.

Finding a new direction

The opportunity to consider the Learning Quality Framework proved to be a timely boost for our morale and sense of direction. We decided that to go for assessment and accreditation would give us greater impetus than just looking at it.

Pulling evidence together for external assessment can sometimes be seen as a tedious business so we had put a day aside to pull together evidence needed to meet the criteria for ‘silver’ level – which is where we felt we would be. We were hugely reassured to find that after an hour, most of the paper based evidence to make our case was there. This is because the bulk of the evidence is drawn from observations of practice and interviews with staff and students by the assessor. We realised that the criteria we couldn’t so easily evidence (issues around progression and parental involvement) we likely to become our targets for development. We then looked at the ‘gold’ level criteria and determined we wanted to become that school.

The assessment

The assessment process took two days. Interviews with the Leadership Group, a cross section of staff, a cross section of middle leaders, a cross section of students, scrutiny of documentation and plenty of lesson observations all contributed to the evidence base that the assessor used to form a view. Scary as it may sound, the process was at all times developmental and formative.It gave the school an opportunity to reflect on the progress it had made to date and to begin to focus on where it might go next. The assessor, much more critical friend than ‘inspector’, worked with us to help us to understand where we were and importantly, what to do next. The report, which arrived a little later, confirmed our judgment of Silver level, but critically gave detailed advice about what we needed to do next to secure further improvements and move towards Gold accreditation – something that we would have found difficult without the external perspective that the process gave us.

Pulling together the evidence in preparation for assessment helped us to identify where we were at the time, and the assessment feedback confirmed this and, most importantly, gave us some clear strategic targets for improvement. As a result of the assessment feedback, we have: developed a Junior Leadership Team to lead on ‘learning issues’; introduced peer coaches who conduct learning conversations with other pupils; initiated a ‘learning theme’ each half term to encourage transferability; identified non timetable days to focus discreetly on learning habits; launched an Independence Award for our KS3 and a ‘record of learning’ for KS4; begun to explore what progression looks like in these skills; identified strategies to involve parents more actively in promoting the relevance of learning skills outside school and beyond school life.

The Quality Mark application not only gave us reassurance and confirmation that what we have been doing was logical and right, it also gave us a development tool and a vision that drew together the vital strands of a school’s learning culture…and a sense of where we are now headed …gold.

Additional information