PDA Learner Support

PDA Learner Support

Professional Development Awards (PDAs) extend or broaden professional or vocational skills and are linked to National Occupational Standards.

The PDA in Learner Support at SCQF level 7 develops knowledge and understanding of the key functions, responsibilities and values expected of a learning assistant or facilitator working in a formal learning environment to support learners with disabilities and/or additional support needs.

Candidates will develop specialist skills and learn how to apply them in a range of situations. They will learn how to communicate effectively with learners and to carry out tasks such as scribing, note-taking and proofreading. They will find out how to select and use appropriate assistive technologies and how to encourage and develop independence in learners. In addition, candidates will gain an understanding of support strategies that help manage difficult behaviour and they will develop their understanding of relevant legislation.

The PDA can be delivered by colleges, training providers and some employers.

Why deliver this qualification

The PDA in Learner Support at SCQF level 7 has been developed in partnership with employers and industry. The sector has identified the need for a recognised qualification for individuals who are working on special programmes or in mainstream further education.

The PDA in Learner Support reflects current practice in support for learning (particularly for those working with school leavers and adult learners with a range of additional needs). In addition, it recognises the time pressures and resource constraints facing employers seeking suitable continuing professional development for staff in educational support roles.

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) can allow candidates to ‘fast-track’ assessment and gain a nationally certificated qualification. Given the nature and purpose of this qualification, RPL may be an important addition to the assessment methodology for these qualifications.

Who does this qualification suit

This PDA is designed for learning assistants and facilitators who support learners with disabilities and/or additional support needs, within a formal learning environment.

Candidates will normally be employed but occasionally may be seeking employment in a learner support role.

In most cases, candidates will undertake the full programme for the Group Award. However, free-standing Units may be used for continuing professional development.


Access is at the discretion of the centre. Candidates will normally be working or intending to work as a learning assistant or facilitator in a learning environment.


There is currently no direct articulation to other SQA qualifications.


Centres with devolved authority for approval should use their own internal approval process.

Centres without devolved authority will have to come forward for approval and should contact SQA’s Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA’s general requirements for technical/occupational competence as outlined in the Guide to Approval.

How to assess

Each individual Unit specification gives detailed information on the Evidence Requirements and approaches to assessment for each Unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply. Assessment will allow candidates to enhance their own practice.

The use of reports and projects is crucial to this.

Where can you take this course?

Qualification Structure

PDA Learner Support

Group Award code: GG3J 47

The PDA in Learner Support at SCQF level 7 consists of two mandatory Units and one optional Unit from a choice of three. For information on the structure of this qualification, please refer to the Group Award Specification document.

Group Award Specification