Remote DSA Needs Assessment

IdeenIn 2011, the University of the Highlands and Islands achieved validation as an assessment centre, authorised to conduct needs assessments for the purposes of Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).

The university’s innovative use of video conferencing for needs assessment can benefit learners who would otherwise incur the cost of travelling to an Access Centre elsewhere in Scotland.

This Sharing Stories recording by JISC Scotland and Scotland’s Colleges features members of the UHI team discussing how it all works and the pros and cons involved. Edited to add: Click here to read the case study.

BRITE was delighted to provide guidance to UHI prior to the implementation of Adobe Connect to facilitate online assessments. Since 2010, BRITE has been using Adobe Connect Pro to deliver accredited online training, gaining recognition from Adobe themselves who featured BRITE as a European Success Story.

If you’d like to know more about our virtual courses, or consultancy services, visit our website or contact

Specific Literacy Difficulties: Effective Screening and Evidence

The latest BRITE seminar looked at the topic of screening for Specific Literacy Difficulties. During this one-day event, 24 delegates from across Scotland explored the range of tools available, and investigated best practice when collating information and presenting it as evidence of need.

The packed event included presenters from Scottish further education colleges, the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and BRITE.

Representatives from Cardonald, Adam Smith and Inverness Colleges set the scene by sharing their experiences of using different systems, discussing both the benefits and the frustrations involved. 

Presenters and delegates addressed the tensions that exist between a needs-led model and the requirement to have ‘evidence of disability’ which is rooted in a medical model. The group also looked at the context in which needs assessments take place – acknowledging the demands that exist from external bodies such as SQA, City and Guilds and SAAS.

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BRITE Trainees and DSA Needs Assessments

Student Awards Agency for Scotland

Following on from a series of conversations with senior staff at the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), here is clarification regarding the arrangements for BRITE trainees who are required to conduct needs assessments under supervision of a qualified needs assessor/mentor during their pre-qualification phase.

Since the introduction in March 2010 of the new guidance from Scottish Government on the implementation of the Toolkit Validated Centres, it has been agreed that needs assessments for the purposes of DSA will only be accepted by SAAS from assessors (a) working for an Access Centre, (b) employed in an institutional assessment centre which has been validated through the Scottish Government DSSG Toolkit Validation process or (c) in training for the Professional Development Award in Needs Assessment through the BRITE Initiative.   Once a BRITE mentee graduates, and becomes a fully fledged Needs Assessor, it has been agreed that s/he must then be operating either in an Access Centre or in a Validated Institution in order to have his/her assessment reports accepted by SAAS. Continue reading

BRITE Needs Assessors’ Forum June 09

The 2nd BRITE Needs Assessors’ Forum took place mid-June, and was full to capacity with BRITE-links who have either graduated with the full PDA, or who are currently working through module 4.

The first part of the morning was taken up with an opportunity for the participants to share in small groups their process of needs assessing and implementing support. The groups were tasked with identifying 4 aspects: Common Practice; Differences; Strengths; and Challenges. This proved to be a really useful chance to learn from sharing good practice, and was further developed through a feedback session at the end of the small group work. Each participant was able to gain an understanding how other colleges were operating, and the chance to delve deeper into the workings of different practice.

Before lunch, Lucy Naismith from Humanware came in to spend 45 minutes updating participants with very impressive magnification devices for people with a visual impairment. This was a very informative session, with an opportunity for ‘hands-on’ and 1-1 discussions over lunch. Our thanks go to Lucy for taking the time to be with the forum. Further information on Humanware products is available at or from Lucy at

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BRITE Needs Assessors’ Forum October 2008

On the 27th October, BRITE hosted the first BRITE Needs Assessors’ Forum. This Forum was for any BRITE graduate or participant at the module 4 stage. This inaugural meeting started with an opportunity for people to get to know each other, and to outline their local context. Each participant had also been asked to come with 3 questions/experiences/challenges to discuss through the course of the afternoon. This was carried out through paired activities, then small groups, before coming back together to summarise.

There was a range of subjects discussed/identified including:

• The provision of non-medical personal help
• Developing resources as a needs assessing centre
• Evidence gathering process for dyslexia
• Identifying and using equipment suppliers
• Concerns of having enough time for own professional development
• Providing demos and training in assistive equipment
• Needs assessing students with complex needs

This was a great opportunity for sounding out ideas with colleagues facing similar challenges and issues, and a source of information and encouragement for all. The success of this sort of Forum rests mainly with the input of the participants, and the input from all was greatly appreciated.

It was not anticipated that this would be a one-off event that would ‘provide all the answers’ and people left expressing that it had been a useful event, but can we do it again, and have more time! There was also an expression of interest in having regional meetings facilitated by BRITE. If there is sufficient interest in this then BRITE will take it forward – let us know what you think, and we can build this in to our planning for the rest of this academic session.