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Support for learners

A hand on someone else's shoulder

Here you can find useful information to help you get started on a course and during your time studying with us.

From practical information on how to use Google classroom to wellbeing and financial advice, this page has you covered.

If you can’t find what you want to know, get in touch with us. We'll be happy to answer your questions. 

Enrolling on a course

You can apply online for every course.

Detailed information about each of our courses is available on this website with links to the relevant application or enquiry forms.

You can also apply over the phone, by text or WhatsApp, by email or in person – see the information available on our contact us page.

You must book onto a course before it starts. If not enough people sign up for a course, it will be cancelled and alternatives offered if available.

When you enrol on a course you will need to provide personal details – please provide all of the information requested.

Although most of our courses are free, a small number have a fee which will need to be paid to secure your place.

You can pay over the phone with a debit or credit card – we do not accept American Express.

Payments can also be made in person at The Coleridge Centre with cash or cheque. Cheques must be made payable to Learning & Skills, Darlington Borough Council. You may be able to apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to help with these costs.

We offer a range of courses across a variety of the following levels: 

Pre Entry Level

This course is designed for those with no or very little basic skills and knowledge.

The small class settings and additional support prepares the individuals to continue to Entry Level 1. 

Entry Level (Beginners and Introductory courses)

Courses designed for those who wish to gain basic knowledge and skills.

Qualifications are offered at Entry 1, Entry 2 and Entry 3 in a range of subject areas including English and Maths.

Level 1 (Intermediate courses)

Courses designed for those who may have studied or gained a qualification some time ago.

These courses provide a foundation to continue to advanced courses. Equivalent to NVQ Level 1 and GCSE grades 1 - 3 [old system grades D – G].

Level 2 (Intermediate courses)

Courses for those reasonably confident in their skills and knowledge and want to learn, apply and interpret information about the subject or skill.

Equivalent to NVQ Level 2 and GCSE grades 4 - 9 [old system grades A* – C].

Level 3 (Advanced courses)

Courses for those who want to explore a subject in detail, with some independent research and reflection of the subject.

Equivalent to NVQ Level 3 and AS/A2 Level.

Levels 4 and 5 (Higher Education courses)

Courses for learners who want an in-depth knowledge of current issues and how they apply to the wider environment.

Equivalent to Professional Certificates and Awards, Certificate of Higher Education and Foundation Degree.

Remote learning

The majority of courses use Google Classroom as a useful learning, sharing and communication tool. In order to provide you with access to our virtual learning environment, you will be invited to join your Tutor’s Google Classroom when you enrol onto a course.

If you are a new learner then an account will be setup for you using our Education License. Along with access to Google Classroom you will also be able to use the Google Drive for Cloud Storage, YouTube, Google Docs and many more Apps.

You will receive a new student email address which will start with your initial and surname in lowercase with no spaces for example:

Watch our 'Introduction to joining Google Classroom' video:

Please ensure you are signed out of any other Google accounts before joining your class.

If you are using a Tablet or Phone then you will need to install Google Classroom, Google Meet and Google Docs; which are all free, from the App or Android Store.​

Google Classroom Explained [pdf document]

All learners will follow timetables set by their tutors – this may include some remote learning.

Remote learning is largely delivered online using Google Classroom, Google Meet, MS Teams,  Learning Assistant VLE and e-portfolios. Learners are able to interact with their tutors and upload set work for marking and feedback.

In some situations, learners who are unable to attend in person, may be offered remote learning as a reasonable adjustment.

Learners who do not have access to appropriate IT equipment will receive paper-based resources to their home address which should be returned on an agreed date.

Some of our courses are delivered as distance learning and will require learners to have access to an appropriate device, for example a laptop, computer or tablet with camera and microphone.

If you are unsure whether you have the right IT equipment or feel you may need support getting online, please speak to us before enrolling on a course  as we may be able to help you access this.

We ask that all learners

  • commit to attend and complete the course
  • report absences and raise issues and queries ahead of the class with their tutor or one of our Learning & Skills Advisers

Learners with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) will have a risk assessment.

If needed, face to face support will be provided where possible and in line with government guidance.

EHCP assessments and annual reviews will continue by telephone or online with the learner, family and council.

Personal support

We pride ourselves on providing bespoke information, advice and guidance to all our individual learners.

We try to give all learners the opportunity to develop an awareness of career pathways and make informed choices based on their personal aspirations and abilities. All Learning & Skills learners are entitled to careers information, advice and guidance which is: 

  • Independent and impartial 
  • Accessible
  • Structured and forms part of a learner's overall education

 Post-16 options 

  • Further education
  • Training and Apprenticeships 

Post-19 options

  • Applying for higher education
  • Researching possible courses and institutions
  • Access to prospectuses from universities 
  • Information and sign-posting on student financing higher education and preparing for student life
  • Job Centre Plus / employment agencies 


  • Help with interviews and the Apprenticeship programme
  • Work related learning and careers
  • Discussion with the Mentor and Career Guidance Advisor in relation to Apprenticeship suitability and what is expected as an apprentice

Matrix Standard

Learning & Skills is accredited to the Matrix standard.

This standard is a unique quality standard for the assessment and measurement of the advice and support services we provide, which ultimately supports learners in their choice of career, learning, work and life goals.

Our current accreditation lasts until 15 June 2023. 

the matrix logo

We offer impartial advice and guidance to all. We help with: 

  • Advice on courses delivered by us and other providers 
  • Transition support from schools 
  • Job search and interview skills
  • CV preparation
  • Advice on improving yours skills, qualifications and employability
  • Courses to improve your career prospects 
  • Careers advice
  • Progression from your current course

A list of websites you may find useful [pdf document]

Your wellbeing – mental health support

How you are feeling, and things that are happening in your life can impact your learning.

There are little things we can all do to lift our mood or ease our anxiety.

The NHS site, Every Mind Matters [external link] has specific advice on maintaining good mental wellbeing. Local NHS Trust TEWV, also has a number of fantastic free online resources for people who are struggling with their mental health at the Recovery College Online [external link].

If you think you would benefit from speaking to someone, please approach your course tutor who can put you in contact with a mental health first aider. All requests will be handled in confidence with the highest level of discretion.

Information on what to do in a mental health emergency is available at What to do in a mental health crisis - Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust [external link]

If you haven’t studied for a while, it can be difficult to get back into the routine. We have pulled together some top tips to help you make the best use of your time, stay motivated and get the most from your learning experience

Know your deadlines and important dates

Your tutor can provide you with a list of important dates, including assignment deadlines and exam dates.

Mark these down on a calendar. Some people find a visual reminder on a wall calendar or diary helpful.

Others prefer digital calendars where they can set reminders and alerts.

Choose to study at your most productive times

Some people like to study in the morning and some people prefer in the evening.

You may want to just study once a week or do little and often. Whichever you decide, stick to the routine. Choose what is best for you.

Choose where to study

Studying at home isn’t always the best environment due to the distractions you may experience there.

If you’re working, your manager might let you use your work facilities after hours, or you could go to the local library or a late opening café.

Plan your time

Make sure to allocate time for study and schedule this in your diary or calendar in advance.

Being clear about what you need to do, and when, will help you to manage competing demands on your time and ensure your studies remain prioritised.

Tell your employer

If you work full-time it is worth telling your employer about your studies so they can support you.

They will be delighted to see that you are investing in your own personal development.

Talk about problems

If you are struggling with a piece of work or struggling to meet a deadline, don’t ignore the problem.

Talk to your tutor who will help and support you to reach a solution.

Remember why you wanted to study

Remind yourself why you are studying. Write down the benefits and the positive opportunities available after you have completed your studies.

It may be worth having a large notice board to help you remember these on a daily basis.

Look after yourself

Take time out to relax or do something you enjoy. Eat healthily and drink water to stay hydrated at all times.

If you can, take regular exercise. Maybe have goals, such as ‘when one unit is completed I will treat myself to a cinema trip’ or whatever you enjoy.

Give yourself permission to say no

Socialising can help you to stay motivated in your studies. However, when it is near deadline dates and exam times, give yourself permission to say no.

Studying is important to you and will help you to build the life you want. People will understand if that means you can’t always go to every social occasion and you can always make plans with them for a different time.

Cost and financial support

Most of our courses are free, however, a small number are charged at £3 per hour.

Where there is a cost, this will be identified within the course information available on this website.

Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for reduced course fees. For example, you may qualify for reduced fees if you receive certain types of benefits, such as Universal credit.

Your residence status may also mean you can get reduced fees, for example if you are an asylum seeker or refugee.  

Accredited learning courses with a qualification may incur a registration and certification fee.

Additional Learning Support (ALS) payments are available to support disadvantaged learners to overcome barriers to learning and achieve their goals.

The funding is intended to be flexible and to help support learners who have a range of learning difficulties and / or disabilities.

You can find out more about reduced fees and ALS payments by contacting us directly – please see the information available on our contact us page.

No fees will be charged for Government funded courses where:

  • Learners are aged 16-18 (on 31 August of the academic year).
  • Learners are aged 19-24 (on 31 August of the academic year) and have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC) or Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA).
  • Learners are studying at level 2 or below, and the learner is studying English or Maths.
  • Learners are aged 19-23 on their first day of study and this is their first 'full' level 2 or 3 qualification (excludes English for Speakers of Other Languages, sometimes called ESOL).
  • Learners are unemployed, aged 19 or older, studying at level 2 or below (including ESOL) and the skills training will help them into work (if one of more of the following also apply):
    • they receive Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) - this includes those receiving National Insurance credits only
    • they receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the learner is in the work-related activity group (WRAG)
    • they receive Universal Credit, earn less than 16 times the national minimum wage (or £330 a month) and are determined by Jobcentre Plus (JCP) as being in one of the following groups:
      • All Work Related Requirements Group
      • Work Preparation Group
      • Work Focused Interview Group
    • they are released on temporary licence (RoTL) and studying outside a prison environment and not funded through the Offender's Learning and Skills Service (OLASS). Please be aware: A letter of entitlement from Job Centre Plus indicating the date and claim or for copy of licence (RoTL) from Probation Service is required as evidence)
  • Learners aged 19-24 who are unemployed and on a traineeship.

Other courses

Further education courses at NVQ level or similar will be charged - price on application.

Learners aged 19 and over, studying at level 3 or above may need to take out an Advanced Learning Loan, These are subject to funding availability.

Further details about student loans can be found on this page

Asylum seekers and refugees

Individuals will be assessed for eligibility in line with Government guidance.

Most asylum seekers and refugees will be eligible for free courses if they have the correct paperwork.

Please contact learning & skills for more information.

Student discount cards

We offer both the TOTUM PRO and the TOTUM Apprenticeship student discount cards for most learners


Most students who are enrolled on courses over 10 weeks in duration are eligible for TOTUM professionals membership. Membership gives you access to hundreds of discounts, exclusive savings, coupons and freebies and comes with a FREE Tastecard for discounts on dining and takeaways.

You can purchase one, two or three year memberships online using your Learning & Skills student email address – please select Darlington Borough Council as your place of study.

If you need a letter of evidence detailing your course, we will be happy to provide this.

Learners studying a family learning course, attending an intensive support programme or undertaking continuing professional development (CPD) modules are not eligible.

Apply for the TORUM PRO card [external link]

TOTUM apprentice

This is the only discount card for apprentices in the UK. A TOTUM Apprentice membership comes with lots of benefits including hundreds of discounts with leading brands and independent retailers, a new app and improved website, PASS proof of age ID and FREE tastecard membership.

All apprentices studying with Learning & Skills can purchase one, two or three year memberships online using their Learning & Skills student email address – please select Darlington Borough Council as your place of study.

If you need a letter of evidence detailing your course, we will be happy to provide this.

Apply for the Totum apprentice card [external link]

Advanced learner loans

Although most of our courses are free, some qualifications do have a cost.

Learners who are unable to pay the fee in full before the course starts may be  eligible for an Advanced Learner Loan.

Who is eligible?

To qualify you must be:

  • aged 19 or over
  • studying a level 3, 4, 5 or 6 qualification
  • living in the UK on the first day of your course and have been living in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for 3 years
  • a UK national or have ‘settled status’ (this means there are no restrictions on how long you can stay)

Your income is not considered and there are no credit checks.

How much can I borrow?

Loan values differ depending on the course, but have a minimum value of £300.

You do not have to borrow the full amount and can pay some money towards the cost of the qualification before getting the loan.

You can apply for up to four loans.

How can I apply?

If you are considering a level 3 or above qualification, please speak to a member of the team who will be able to tell you the cost of the course and whether you will qualify for a loan.

At enrolment, please ask us for a ‘Learning and Funding Information’ letter,  as you will need this to complete your loan application.

You can apply for the loan online via the student finance website [external link] – you will need to register first. You can apply by post if you cannot apply online.

You will receive a letter confirming your loan, usually within 2 weeks (postal applications take longer).

You can apply for a loan without a National Insurance number, but you must have one before you can receive the loan.


When you start to pay back your loan will depend on a number of factors. Please visit the repaying your student loan webpage [external link] for more details

Useful resources

Install our web app.