Telford College has strengthened its bonds with students and their families as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s not just the view of tutors – but of parents, guardians and carers too.
The college has been reflecting on some of the challenges created by a year of lockdowns, disruptions and restrictions, as well as the many positives which have emerged.
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A new blended learning timetable, introduced to maximise flexibility and minimise risk of spreading the virus, means the majority of students are now combining lessons on campus with at-home studies.
Staff believe that bringing learning into the home has actually allowed them to engage more closely with some students on a one-to-one basis – and provide families with a greater understanding of their studies.
Construction tutor John Gregory says this is one reason why remote learning will now always remain a key part of the curriculum.
“Even though construction is a very practical career, there is still theory to learn. I can run
practical lessons in the workshops here at college and then set the work for the following day when I will run a remote session on Teams.
“It’s great – certainly different to being in the classroom which does have its benefits, but the students enjoy our blended learning approach.”
John was able to bring small groups of students into college during lockdown to benefit from a more concentrated tutor-to-student ratio.
He said: “Students were progressing much more quickly, and we’re much further ahead than we were this time last year.”
“Another change is the contact I’ve had with parents, guardians and carers. It has been fantastic to meet some of the parents before a lesson on Teams, who all really want to know how their child is getting on.
“It has allowed me to get to know the parents and improve their knowledge of the course, as well as the expectations of me as the tutor.”
Caroline Archbold, mother of construction student Jowan Archbold, says the college has helped
the former Idsall School student to develop as a person and find new confidence during the last few months.
“Jowan has even managed to grow his friendship group over the last year. He did lack in confidence but he had the opportunity to attend college as I’m a keyworker, and John and Jowan made good use of the time together.
“John supported Jowan through some challenging times. John understood Jowan’s concerns and they worked together to overcome them, for which I’m truly grateful.
“I can’t praise John Gregory enough for the way he supported Jowan through lockdown, got the best out of him, and helped him through some challenging assessments.”
The college is proud to have has remained open throughout the pandemic, and to have continued to run many vocational exams under strict Covid-safe conditions.
It turned the sports hall at the Haybridge campus into a testing centre at the start of the new year, conducting nearly 4,000 tests – helped by volunteers who gave up a combined total of more than 1,300 hours of their time.
On top of this, the college has also distributed more than 2,500 home Covid test kits to staff and students.
Graham Guest, principal and chief executive of Telford College, said: “I am proud, and humbled, by the immense efforts of our staff during these unprecedented times.
“The statistics speak for themselves, and show the sheer scale of the support they have given,
and the difference it has made, to ensure students are able to achieve and continue with their studies with minimal disruption.
“Prior to the start of March, our testing system allowed hundreds of students to attend campus for their practical sessions and exams.
“And since March 8, when restrictions were eased, not a single class bubble has had to be shut down due to a Covid diagnosis. That’s in no small part due to the stringent, and well organised safety procedures we have put in place.”
The college has also taken the opportunity to upgrade and refurbish many parts of the campus during lockdown, investing more than £1.2 million around the site during the 2019-20 academic year – and using many local suppliers.
Part of the investment has helped the college to reduce its carbon footprint, through the installation of several new energy-efficient boilers, and replacement of more than 2,800 bulbs with LED alternatives.