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Practising Certificates

Specialist teachers

must hold a current practising certificate in assessing specific learning difficulties issued by their relevant professional association, for example, PATOSS (the Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties), Dyslexia Guild or the British Dyslexia Association.


must be registered with the Health Care and Professions Council [HCPC, mandatory from July 2012]. Before July 2012 psychologists were required to hold a current practising certificate issued by their relevant professional association, for example, the British Psychological Association. [The British Psychological Society has now ceased issuing practising certificates.]  See news item on this site: http://www.sasc.org.uk/NewsItem.aspx?id=33

A Practising Certificate is one which recognises not only professional achievement but also a commitment to continuing professional development (CPD). Practising Certificates have to be renewed on a regular basis. Therefore those wishing to hold or renew a Practising Certificate will be required to demonstrate this commitment by showing how they have regularly updated their professional skills and competence through study, professional discussion, training and practice. The Practising Certificate for Specialist Teachers should not be confused with the Practising Certificate issued by the British Psychological Society to Chartered Psychologists or Health Professions Council Registration.

In recent years the demand for diagnostic assessments of specific learning difficulties has grown considerably. Assessments are increasingly needed for specific purposes such as determining the right to Access Arrangements in examinations and the eligibility for the Disabled Student Allowances. As the demand for assessments has grown, more professionals with qualifications in assessment of specific learning difficulties either as psychologists or as specialist teachers have become involved in this field. As a result of this, pressure for effective monitoring of standards in assessment has grown – both from those bodies such as the DfES or the Joint Council who use assessment reports to make important decisions and from within the professions themselves.

The DfES was responsible for setting up a working group to consider the whole question of assessments for eligibility for the Disabled Student Allowances and as many specialist teachers and psychologists are aware this working group has produced useful guidance, for example, on procedures, the choice of tests and the format of assessment reports for this particular purpose. In addition the working group recognised and emphasised in its report the need for some means of monitoring the quality of assessments, not on a case-by-case basis, but by ensuring that assessments were carried out by people who possessed requisite knowledge and skills to do the job to the highest professional standards. The quality of an assessment and subsequent report depends primarily on the knowledge and skills of the assessor rather than the selection of tests used. It is from this set of circumstances that the impetus has come for a Practising Certificate in Assessment which:

  • encourages continuing professional development in the skills of assessment
  • recognises and awards these skills
  • is valid for a set period of time only and then will need to be renewed

Guidance on Continuing Professional Development

Continuing Professional Development is an essential ingredient to maintaining and extending your professional knowledge and skills. The CPD you undertake helps to keep you abreast of current research fields, changes in practice and new developments.  SASC has issued the guidance to encourage the development of assessment and reporting skills. 

To count towards meeting CPD requirements, the activity should be at an appropriate level and contribute to an SpLD assessor's general professional skill and knowledge. Time claimed for each activity should be realistic; time attributed to attendance at courses should not include the organised breaks (e.g. lunch hours); routine work is not considered to be CPD. Full details of requirements and the range of CPD activities that could contribute to your relevant CPD can be found in 'SASC Guidelines on Continuing Professional Development' in the downloads area of the website.

CPD Requirements for First time Holders of an SpLD APC [applies to all new APCs issued from 1st September 2018]

The requirement for additional SASC authorised CPD detailed below is aimed at better supporting those holding an APC for the first time:

  •   Holders of an APC for the first time should participate in at least 5 hours of authorised CPD each year before their first renewal. This CPD would be authorised by SASC and listed through the SASC website.  and
  •   5 hours CPD, which may not have an assessed element, each year.

SASC recommends some of this be mentoring so new assessors can have an opportunity for focused work relating to developing their individual assessment and reflective practice.  For 1st time renewals, 10 hours of the SASC authorised element of this CPD should be other than updates on Access Arrangements.

All CPD logs should cover the full range of themes:

  • Principles of psychometrics, statistics, assessment and underlying theory (C1)
  • SpLD testing methods, interpretation and test materials (C2)
  • Changes in regulations and legislation relating to SpLDs (S1)
  • Developments in SpLD research (S2)
  • Approaches to teaching and support for SpLD (S3)

 For full guidance see  Downloads page

Guidance on Practitioners Conducting Tests used in Diagnostic Assessments


SASC has issued guidance for practitioners conducting tests used in diagnostic assessments. These relate to the following:

  1. A third party conducting tests
  2. Assessors collaborating in conducting assessments
  3. Trainees carrying out assessments.
  4. Declarations to be applied to reports

1)                A third party conducting tests

 A diagnostic assessment is based on more than just scores to tests. It is important that the assessor writing the report conducts all the assessments since the observation of strategies used, the effort required and the approach to the tasks inform the analysis of strengths and weaknesses to be addressed. SASC guidance is that assessors must not sign-off reports based on assessments conducted by another professional. [Similar guidance also reflected in JCQ AA regulations 2018-19 section 7.6.6].

2)              Assessors Collaborating in Conducting Assessments

In the unusual circumstances where two qualified assessors collaborate in carrying out an assessment and the production of the diagnostic report, both should sign the report and state their qualifications.   Contact details of the assessors' organisation(s) must also be clearly stated.

3)            Trainees carrying out assessments.

See specific guidance covering both trainee psychologists and trainee specialist teacher assessors. See below and downloads Trainees Writing Reports-SASC Guidance Jan 2020

4) Declarations to be applied to reports         

The declarations affirming that SASC guidelines have been followed is strengthened as noted in the New Report Formats and Trainee Guidance and must be completed.     

Trainees Writing Diagnostic Assessment Reports for Specific Learning Difficulties

Updated guidance issued January 2020. [The implementation for this guidance applies to all reports produced after 31 March 2020]

This policy clarifies the circumstances in which trainees on accredited courses can gain experience within their training environment in writing diagnostic assessments for those with possible specific learning difficulties (SpLDs). Individuals are recognised as trainees only when they are on a formal accredited course leading to either HCPC registration or a SpLD Assessment Practising Certificate.

Graduates, e.g. individuals with a level 5 psychology degree or SpLD teaching qualification, must not carry out diagnostic assessments for students with possible specific learning difficulties unless they are currently undergoing formal accredited training leading to either HCPC registration or a SpLD Assessment Practising Certificate.

·        A trainee carrying out an assessment while on a training course, where the report produced could later be submitted for application for the DSA, must supervised by the course or workplace supervising tutor. Psychologists undergoing formal accredited training leading to HCPC registration can conduct assessments without direct observation, provided their HCPC registered supervisor is able to take responsibility for the for the quality of the assessment process, the accuracy of the diagnostic conclusions and the written report.


·        Under no circumstances must assessment reports written for application for the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) or other application be signed solely as the work of trainee assessors or graduates prior to their achievement of HCPC registration or SpLD assessment practising certificate (APC) unless it is written within the accredited training course and signed by the supervisor taking responsibility for the report, as in the wording below.

·        Reports must never be signed by a trainee assessor with ‘registration pending' or ‘APC pending', nor can reports written before the assessor has been awarded the HCPC registration or APC number have this registration or award information added to the report after the event.


A trainee assessor's full diagnostic assessment report can ONLY be accepted if the following conditions have been met:


1.      The qualified supervising tutor or work placement supervisor has reviewed the report and ensured that the report meets the appropriate standards set by SASC.

2.      The qualified supervising tutor or placement supervisor signs the report, giving their APC number or HCPC registration and contact details. The trainee assessor's name is required on the report but the qualified supervising tutor/placement supervisor takes full responsibility for the report and its diagnostic outcome.

3.      The details are provided of the course on which the trainee is enrolled, including title, start date and duration at the time the assessment was conducted.


The supervisor will be registered with the HCPC and takes legal responsibility for the quality of the assessment, report and conclusions.


Both psychologist trainee and supervisor are responsible for adhering to the British Psychological Society Code of Ethics and Conduct which expects psychologists to practice within their own area of competence.  In terms of delivering SpLD assessments, both must have undertaken relevant training and research to acquire this skill.


Where a trainee has contributed to or produced a report:

For the avoidance of doubt, SASC is now requiring the specific wording to be used to confirm trainees' reports are used only where the trainee is actively enrolled on an authorised course leading to an Assessment Practising Certificate or HCPC certification.

See  Trainees Writing Reports – SASC Guidance Jan 2020

Assessing Assessors

A Guide for consistency across issuing bodies for evaluation of reports for Assessment Practising Certificate renewal applications

From January 2020 this new structure with its accompanying marking guide will be used for the review of submitted reports.

The APC renewal process offers an opportunity both for individual professional development through feedback on assessment reports and for issuing bodies to support the overall aim of the review to underpin and improve assessment practice standards. These criteria should be used by assessors, by training providers and also apply where a report may be required in the initial application for an Assessment Practising Certificate.

SASC has looked at simplifying the approach to review of assessment practice and feel that a move to a proforma used by all APC issuing bodies, while supporting one set of core criteria, will add clarity to the feedback assessors receive. It is felt that a move away from the current ‘3 levels' to one set of core criteria will be clearer and promote greater consistency.

These criteria with their accompanying feedback pro forma will be used by all APC issuing bodies for all reports received from 1 January 2020.

The full criteria and marking scheme can be found in the downloads section of this website or using the links below.


Pro forma

The revised structure for review sets out the following criteria considered to be essential for all "effective" assessment reports

All reports should demonstrate that:


1.       Confidentiality is maintained throughout the report.

2.        The assessor has a thorough understanding of how cognitive processing contributes to the identification of the SpLD/s under consideration.

3.        A range of background information has been gathered from a variety of sources and that this has been used to inform the assessment and the diagnostic decision.

4.        Age appropriate assessment materials have been chosen to cover all core components as relevant to the SpLD(s) under consideration (note that where adults are over 25, and no appropriate adult-normed test is available, tests can be used diagnostically, without quoting standard scores or level descriptors).

5.        Information in the report reflects that tests have been administered correctly and all scores are calculated, converted and reported with 100% accuracy.

6.        There is a thorough understanding of statistical terms and of different scoring systems used by different tests and subtests.

7.        Judicious and accurate use is made of relevant statistical data within test manuals (for example prevalence).

8.        Scores are related to the average with consistency and unexpected differences in performance are acknowledged and discussed.

9.        Scores are accompanied by relevant qualitative analysis, observation and evaluation of performance, noting the possible effect on test performance of any compensatory strategies that might have been used.

10.    All information is drawn together to provide a clear interpretation and synthesis of the assessment evidence.

11.    The diagnostic decision is clearly stated and supported by evidence contained within the report, including the background information.

12.    The diagnostic decision is mapped to an up to date and recognised definition of the SpLD(s) under consideration.

13.    The impact of the identified SpLD(s) on the individual is recognised and outlined.

14.    Recommendations are clear and individually tailored.

15.    Accessibility has been considered for the non-specialist in terms of sensitive and professional language, format and length.

Possible outcomes following review of report submitted for evaluation


Criteria met

·        APC Issued

·       If a minor scoring error is identified an amendment of the inaccurate scores identified is requested.  Once received and approved, APC issued

Any supporting document the reviewer feels necessary can be requested at any stage


Criteria not met

·        Feedback supplied

·        Second report requested

Each criterion can attract marks as follows:

Criterion met – 2 marks;           Criterion met in part – 1 mark;              Criterion not met - 0

The successful outcome of the review will then be based on two premises:

  1. There are no marks of zero
  2. The total score does not fall below the agreed base standard of 23 marks out of 30 [77%]

    Please Note : Any second submitted report is evaluated using same criteria. If this report also fails to meet the standard the APC will not be awarded. The candidate will have to submit new assessment evidence to complete the process in full.

    Response when APC application is not successful


    • Assessor's listing on  SASC website indicates, on expiry, APC not current
    • Assessors advised to undertake individual mentoring from an experienced colleague, or other further training
    • Assessors asked to provide evidence of mentoring or other additional training when re-applying for APC
    • Re-applications not to be considered within 2 months