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Digital Statement January 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic posed considerable challenges for education providers during the academic years 2019-2020 and again in 2020-2021.

Varying levels of infection rates have necessitated our family of Colleges to act swiftly and be agile in our approach to teaching, learning and assessment between full on-site delivery to fully remote teaching and learning. In many cases, a blended approach has been used, especially when localised outbreaks have resulted in whole classes being required to self-isolate.

EKC Group places great importance on face-to-face delivery and has maintained safe learning environments, enabling the vast majority of our students to continue attending their local college, taking part in both theory and practical sessions with their tutors.

In order to provide transparency and clarity, the Department for Education (DfE) requires all colleges to publish details of their remote education offers, as detailed below.

Department for Education Requirements 

In order that students (and parents of students aged 18 and below) know what to expect of their FE provider if they need to self-isolate or local restrictions require them to remain at home, colleges are required to publish their remote education offer on their website. This should include:

  • what remote education will be made available for different learner cohorts (14 to 16, 16 to 19, apprentices, adult learners);
  • delivery arrangements, such as timetabling, virtual learning environments and assessment arrangements;
  • expectations of students;
  • arrangements for students studying courses that require specialist equipment or facilities;
  • support for students without devices, connectivity or a suitable environment for learning;
  • support for students with SEND.

The passages below cover each of these in turn.

EKC Group’s Colleges will provide a range of remote learning methods for students. Microsoft Teams and our VLE (Moodle) are key delivery platforms for remote learning that are well utilised by staff and students. Adaptations to assessment requirements will be made where necessary to support young people to achieve their qualifications. EKC Group expects that teaching and learning will continue as normal unless DfE guidance advises otherwise or national rules change. All Colleges in our Group are well prepared to deliver remote programmes, utilising a range of delivery methods. Staff and students will receive guidance on the use of appropriate software and platforms to ensure a seamless transfer to remote learning when required. All of our Colleges remain open and accessible for those vulnerable learners who may have difficulties participating in learning from home.

Remote delivery is provided for adult learners across a wide range of curriculum areas except for any practical workshop elements requiring the development of new skills; where possible each College in our Group will prioritise this learning and adapt the delivery and sequencing of the course of study to ensure no one is disadvantaged. Staff have embraced technology, and all are fully conversant with Microsoft Teams as a remote delivery channel. All adults have full access to our VLE (Moodle) for further access to resources, recorded sessions and for submission of completed work.

Each College across EKC Group has a number of loan laptops available to those students who have no alternative.

Apprentices will continue to meet the 20 per cent ‘off the job’ element through a range of flexible models already put in place by their vocational area curriculum teams. All reviews are currently conducted remotely with employers and Apprentices to ensure knowledge, skills and behaviours continue to be developed. Targets and actions will be set accordingly and progress reviewed with performance monitored against planned expected end dates.

Remote delivery has become established practice across HE programmes with large elements successfully planned and delivered remotely.  Live teaching using tools such as Microsoft Teams to stream lectures form the main part of the remote offer, with scheduled tutorials and group working utilising our software’s functionality. Teaching and learning also takes place through our VLE (Moodle) as a central hub of information where each module has a dedicated page of resources and learning materials. The live remote teaching of sessions, as well as additional tutorials, are also used to accommodate any student needing to self-isolate whilst other teaching materials and tutorials help those who have additional caring responsibilities. Assessments are primarily submitted electronically.

Where specialist equipment or practical sessions are required, timetables are being managed to accommodate these wherever feasible on-site (e.g. by switching the order of modules during the Academic Year). In extreme situations, adaptations will need to be made to assess practical learning outcomes differently (e.g. with an adapted assessment based on a virtual practical demonstration or virtual exhibition platforms).

Each College across EKC Group has a number of loan laptops available to those students who have no alternative access to devices.

EKC Group utilises a range of delivery options through adaptations of timetables dependent on the needs of students, group sizes and campus locations, recognising that no single option is likely to suit all students. Teaching staff will prioritise practical and workshop learning to avoid any disadvantage should any College need to close, a curriculum bubble be collapsed, or a national lockdown be implemented.

EKC Group expects assessment processes to continue (including internal progress assessments and externally set assessments) wherever possible, ensuring that Covid safety guidelines are followed for any external examinations.

Our Group’s VLE (Moodle) is well-established and provides all students and staff with access to resources. We support both staff and students with queries and upskilling to ensure all can access technology purposefully and use Microsoft Teams and our VLE (Moodle) confidently.

Students will connect with teaching staff remotely through the VLE (Moodle) and Microsoft Teams to facilitate continued support for education.

Pastoral support will be delivered remotely using Microsoft Teams. Students will be given guidance on this and instructed on access to pastoral resources, information and guidance. Progression Mentors will maintain contact with students who are working remotely to provide support and monitor concerns that arise (e.g. mental health issues through email, telephone and online using Microsoft Teams). Resources will be made available for students to access additional online support for pastoral issues such as homelessness, mental health and wellbeing, and domestic violence.

Remote learning expectations have been shared with students including how to keep safe on-line. Students are expected to participate in all remote learning opportunities provided to ensure progress is maintained. Where students are unable to participate due to illness or other issue, College protocols for reporting absence remain in force and registers will be marked accordingly. Teaching staff will raise concerns about student participation with Progression Mentors who will take appropriate action using normal college policy and procedure.

Where remote learning impacts on specialist equipment or resources, EKC Group will prioritise this aspect of learning once face-to-face teaching resumes. Where possible, practical elements of programmes will be front loaded to ensure minimal impact to student progress should a full lockdown and remote learning be required. In extreme situations, adaptations will need to be made to asses practical learning outcomes differently (i.e. with an adapted assessment based on a virtual practical demonstration in line with awarding body guidance).

EKC Group provides devices to students in receipt of 16-19 discretionary bursary, where they do not have access to a device. The Group will decide what support a student needs based on an individual assessment which is in line with bursary funding rules that all support must be based on individual circumstances and needs. If an extended period of remote learning occurs, each College will aim to loan devices to all students in need.

EKC Group will work with the local authority to ensure looked after children and those with social workers, access the scheme to provide devices.

EKC Group will utilise adult learner support funds to purchase IT devices to loan to adult students (aged 19 and over).

EKC Group is accessing additional data for use by individual learners through Wi-Fi dongles, to provide connectivity options for those students who do not have access to the internet at home.

All our Colleges remain open and accessible at each of our sites for those vulnerable learners or the children of key workers who may have difficulties participating in learning from home.

Students with SEND will continue to receive remote learning support through the specialist teams at each College. The Supported Learning teams will maintain contact with students with SEND to provide guidance to learners and their parents during periods of remote learning. Students with SEND may have alternative methods of remote delivery depending on their need; for example paper-based materials sent out on a weekly basis. Where applicable, EHCP reviews will continue through a remote process in agreement with the local authority, parent/carer and student.

If you require further information about The EKC Group’s remote education offer, please email the Student Services Team at your local College.