Friday 4 Sept 12:00 

 

To say that the last few months have been turbulent would be an understatement. Indeed to say that the last few weeks in education have been turbulent would be underplaying things. 

Much has been written about the impact of the lockdown period on young people. For some, it will have been a safe and maybe enjoyable period. For others, it will have been challenging, traumatic even. Issues such as increased mental health concerns, increased loneliness and isolation, absence from education, challenging family relationships, and lack of safe space - including not being able to access school, college, and youth services - will have affected many young people. 

On Tuesday 2nd Sept, we welcomed Future Pathways (post-16 education) students to the House of Sport facility for face to face learning for the first time since March. The safety of students and staff remains our top priority. We’re therefore implementing a gradual phased return to face to face learning. Things are different, unusual even, but students still experience a high-quality learning experience in a friendly environment. 

The return of face to face learning is an important milestone in our recovery from COVID-19. Our online learning activities (group video conferences, digital resources etc) helped students continue their studies during lockdown and we’re pleased to report that student results were very good. However, online learning cannot fully replicate the interaction between students and teachers. 

Our staff are used to supporting students through the ups and downs of life – the current situation will amplify those situations and we are yet to fully understand the impact on young people’s wellbeing. That’s why we’ve placed wellbeing at the heart of the Future Pathways programme (and our other programmes for that matter). 

Some of the practical steps we’re taking include encouraging students to share their lockdown experiences with one another, rebuild lost connections and make new friendships. We’re also offering wellbeing check-ins so that students have a safe space to talk, and increasing the additional opportunities for students to develop new skills and build resilience so they can look to the future with confidence. Of course, we’re also encouraging our staff to model positive behaviour – to self-care (eat well, take exercise, get adequate sleep), be grateful (focus on the positive, celebrate successes, give praise) and to talk openly about their feelings. 

As we reach the end of the first week of face to face learning, I’d like to acknowledge the resilience of our students and thank them for observing our safety measures, supporting one another and embracing the return of face to face learning. I’d also like to thank our staff for creating such a high quality and friendly environment for our learners. 

Gavin Hawkey, Foundation Director