Students

Today (Tuesday, 13 April), 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.” 

James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, said: 

“The impact of the pandemic on post-16 education has been given too little attention in the past year. Yet as today’s research shows, the immediate effects are severe, with almost all students performing below the expected level. 

“As part of the education recovery plan, there should be a focus on 16-19 year olds, with targeted support for those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds who have been affected most. AoC’s call for an equivalent to pupil premium funding for students in post-16 settings is welcome and echoes our own recommendations. Failure to provide sufficient support to students in further education could have severe implications for social mobility.”

Kathleen Henehan, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation said:

“This report sheds a clear light on the consequences of lost learning for young people in England. We know that young people are already facing a difficult labour market upon leaving education, so it’s critically important that policy makers invest in initiatives to help this next crop of leavers.”

Verity Davidge, Director of Policy at Make UK said: 

“Today’s findings demonstrate the considerable impact the pandemic has had on learners in the manufacturing sector. Young people have borne the brunt of the lockdowns and, to date, we have seen little evidence that the damage they have suffered to their learning and, the extent of the sacrifice made, has been appreciated.

“Whilst remote and online learning has opened up new opportunities, replicating vital on-the-job training in the manufacturing sector for young people has proved more challenging. Nothing can replace the immersive learning experience of working on a manufacturing site, surrounded by the latest technology whilst learning from peers.

“Government must now take swift action to ensure we don’t lock out the next generation, and limit the adverse impacts of lost learning for young people. Joined-up work opportunities, as well as targeted sectoral support for those that have lost out on crucial skills development and training in the manufacturing sector, will be vital as we collectively look to rebuild and recover post pandemic.”

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