In a world that is undergoing unprecedented pressure and unprecedented change, the challenges we face as educators have been placed in more focus than ever before. Understandably, the provision and guidance we have received has had to be fluid and constantly revised, as we, like every other facet of everyday life, stumble into the unknown, having to react to new and unforeseen challenges, all while attempting to do the best for our students.
At East Coast College, as at all other organisations right now, we are having to be nimble. Current guidance from the government and the awarding bodies has it that there will be no exams taking place this summer, and no certainty on how we can find consistent assessment criteria for our students.
This means that, like never before, we are having to be creative in regards to support for our students, especially in a college environment that differs from the school framework in many ways. One of the key challenges in college education is managing the many pathways from college to progression – a student may normally wish to move to university, to gain an apprenticeship or to enter the world of work. How do we manage these transitions, as educators, in a world where we cannot offer any certainty?
In our college, these demands are further exacerbated – our college is located in an area of high deprivation, with all the attendant issues that come in an environment like that, not least key safeguarding challenges. I am supremely fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated and committed staff, who have responded to incredible, changing demands in innovative and positive ways, and continue to do so.
Delivering English and maths
To this end, English and maths staff have quickly embraced their new virtual classrooms. Already, staff have utilised the Moodle, ProMonitor, MathsWatch and BKSB learning platforms extensively. They are setting assignments, and individualised and targeted skills-driven work, all of which can be closely monitored and tracked. Feedback and follow-up comments are all applied so that both the students and the staff who teach on their study programmes are aware of the progress being made. At ECC, we have implemented a team of caseworkers who also follow learners from whom we have not heard, or who have not completed any work – again, all triangulated on ProMonitor for everyone to see.
In the meantime, English and maths staff are exploring options around real-time teaching too, using technologies such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Padlet and Zoom as a way of ensuring our learners are still getting that human interaction. Furthermore, it is proving especially useful for learners who need that teaching element as well as the demonstration and guidance on various components of our curricula. We are trying out three to four small group sessions that range between 30 and 45 minutes.
The turnout and feedback from staff has been positive so far. To further support their wellbeing and development online, we also have forums and chatrooms on our Moodle platform to support both general and wider discussions and concerns around all that is English and maths. We also have a Moodle team that is supporting those learners who have education, health and care plans (EHCPs), and attract one-to-one support in the classroom.
While it was been a mad first week, it was a positive week. Staff came together even more than ever, and rallied around, collaborated and embraced the online technologies quickly. I am lucky to work at ECC. I have witnessed first-hand that we are at the heart of our community. We have a team full of dedicated teachers, support staff and leaders. Our common goal is to ensure students are safe, that they are kept informed, and are provided with the resources and tools to carry on developing the skills they need to progress onto their next steps.
But will all this positivity and creativity be enough for our students, who have to contend with the world of Covid-19 in addition to the pressures of an already intense and demanding background? We will have to wait and see…
Lee Nevill is the curriculum manager English, maths and community at East Coast College