Telford College staff have been praised for their commitment and ability to embrace new ways of delivering the curriculum throughout the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The college has remained open over the past year, delivering live lessons through a series of multimedia platforms, including Microsoft Teams, and creating a new flexible, blended learning timetable.
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The achievements – which principal Graham Guest said had been hugely helped by very positive and productive industrial relations – have been recognised and praised by governors, managers, and students.
Assistant principal Rachael Wilson said: “Our tutors have done a fabulous job to embrace, understand and make such creative use of technology.
“It’s enabled us to deliver the vast majority of our sessions live, as if the students were in the classroom, and the ongoing staff training means we’re now able to do some pretty amazing things.
“Learning how to use platforms such as Microsoft Teams to develop engaging sessions was a big learning curve in a short space of time, and that’s where the majority of our staff CPD work has focused.”
Helen Swinnerton, from the foundation learning team, said the training and support provided by the college had helped staff to discover new ways of teaching, and keep disruption to a minimum.
“We had a full initial training session on Microsoft Teams and One Note when the first lockdown began, and this has been followed up with regular sessions to expand and maintain skills. Staff are also working closely together to share best practice.”
Teresa Hughes, learner manager for business, professional studies and digital, said: “The college has given us all the tools we’ve needed to adapt to these changing times, from training and support to practical things like extra headsets or microphones.
“In some respects, I actually think online learning has been of benefit to our delivery – we’ve all been learning as we go, about the best ways to engage with students.”
Accounting tutor Slav Sutton added: “One of the most important things from my perspective over the past year has been the fact that everyone – staff and students – have shown a real desire to learn.
“In our department, we have students from age 16 all the way up to 50-plus, with varying levels of IT knowledge. There has been a real camaraderie among everyone to make things work.
“We have tried very hard with our remote lessons to give a feeling that we are still delivering some sort of face-to-face experience, and judging by the exam results so far this year, it seems to have paid dividends.”
Stuart Gregory, from the college’s A level centre, the 7th Form, said: “We have made changes to teaching methods which, under normal circumstances, would probably have taken a decade to evolve.
“It’s all been done in a structured way, educating staff on different elements of platforms such as Teams in a gradual way, and the support has been a mixture of structured CPD sessions and peer-to-peer learning with staff sharing top tips and best practice.”
Anne O’Sullivan, West Midlands regional official of the University and College Union, said: “We have worked closely with the college in weekly meetings throughout the pandemic.
“The effective ways of working we have developed have benefited both students and staff in dealing with the educational challenges of Covid.
“The weekly meetings have allowed us to successfully iron out any issues quickly and efficiently on behalf of our members and the wider college community, so it is great to see staff being recognised now for their dedication and commitment to their students.”
Paul Hinkins, who chairs the college’s corporation, added: “I am truly inspired by the staff commitment to making a difference in these unprecedented and challenging pandemic times.
“Our college has found ways to address issues, to do things differently, and make continuous improvement.
“This includes coming up with practical tools and techniques to make things work better for the college – and most importantly for the staff and students.
“I have no doubt in my mind that the team has set the standard in being a leading example in our sector. I want to say a massive thank you to them all.”