The education column with East Riding College’s Mike Welsh: We’re continuing to support students and prepare them for the future

In April the Association of Colleges published the results of a survey, revealing the impact of the pandemic on education. It found that three quarters of 16 to 18 year olds are between one and four months behind on their studies - with a similar number of adult students also behind where they would normally be at this point in the academic year.

Monday, 26th April 2021, 1:25 pm
The East Riding College campus at St Mary’s Walk, Bridlington.
The East Riding College campus at St Mary’s Walk, Bridlington.

The figures are stark and represent a national picture that I don’t believe is reflected in the experience of our own learners. Nevertheless, I don’t underestimate the challenge that we have had to keep our learners on track this academic year, and to make sure they achieve the outcomes they deserve. 
Not surprisingly, the survey shows that students on practical courses such as construction, engineering, motor vehicle and hair and beauty have been hit hardest, because it is more difficult to replace practical teaching with online delivery.

To combat the effects the pandemic has had on teaching and learning, the Association of Colleges want the most disadvantaged students to be provided with targeted support through a 16-19 student premium, just like the pupil premium in schools.

It is also calling for all students continuing to learn in college to be funded at the same rate as 16 and 17 year olds. This means removing the 17.5% fall in funding at 18 that currently exists.

The association has long campaigned for students in colleges to be entitled to the same hours of teaching and support as their counterparts in other countries, to make sure they are not disadvantaged in the global labour market. If this were introduced now, it would help fund activities that have not been deliverable online during the pandemic.

It is proposed that students leaving college should be guaranteed a fully funded extra year of study if they need it, through a simple, flexible fund, which would allow colleges to design programmes lasting between six months to one year to meet different needs and outcomes, along with a bursary to support students to be able to participate.   

Learners of all ages will also need support to navigate the government’s new initiatives through the Department for Education and Department for Work and Pensions, intended to join up the study and employment programmes and help the economic recovery. The current options include bootcamps, traineeships, apprenticeships, Restart and Kickstart - confusing for students and employers alike.

Whatever help can be offered will result in more positive outcomes for the learners that have felt the impact of the pandemic most keenly.

We all need to recognise that the impact of Covid on education and skills will last for some considerable time and that those affected will be entering a very challenging labour market too.

At East Riding College we have gone to great lengths to ensure no learner is disadvantaged nor left behind over the last year, and we will continue to ensure that as our learners move on to employment and higher education, that they are prepared for the future.