Association of Colleges has published results from a survey of colleges, revealing the extent of damage to students’ education during the pandemic. A staggering three quarters (77%) of 16 to 18-year olds are performing below normal expectations, between one and four months behind, with a similar number of adult students (69%) also below where they would normally be at this point in the academic year.
Students on practical courses such as construction, engineering, motor vehicle and hair and beauty have been hit hardest, because it is most difficult to replace practical teaching through online delivery. English, maths and ESOL have seen varied engagement levels online, especially for lower-level students and those with special educational needs. Nearly three quarters (71%) of colleges are providing additional tuition over and above the tuition fund with many teaching over the Easter holidays to make up for lost learning.
To combat the severe effects the pandemic has had on teaching and learning, students continuing to learn in college or moving to college from schools should 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.
- provided with targeted support for the most disadvantaged through a 16-19 student premium, just like the pupil premium in schools.
- entitled to the same hours of teaching and support as their counterparts in other OECD countries, that will fund extra-curricular activities such as sport, drama, music, volunteering that have fallen off during the pandemic.
While students leaving college should be:
- guaranteed a fully funded extra year of study if they need it, through a simple, flexible fund, which allows colleges to design programmes lasting between six months to one year to meet different needs and outcomes. A bursary will be required to support students to be able to participate.
- supported to navigate the government’s new initiatives through DfE and DWP joining up their study and employment programmes for 16 to 24-year olds. The current options including bootcamps, traineeships, apprenticeships, Restart and Kickstart are confusing for students, employers and colleges.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Chief Executive of AoC, David Hughes said:
“The latest data from colleges paints a stark picture of the pandemic’s impact on learning for young people and adults. While colleges have worked extremely hard to keep students engaged and motivated about their education, many students, particularly those on vocational courses and on lower level courses have lost out on crucial skills development and training.
The government needs to act swiftly to support existing college students, those starting this autumn and those leaving for the labour market so that they experience the least disruption to their progression as possible. Our recommendations give long-term solutions to the problem of lost learning, because the impact of Covid will last for some time. Flexible programmes of extended study, joined up work opportunities and fair 16 – 19 funding with teaching hours that level the playing field for England’s young people are all vital to ensure nobody is left behind.”