The programme of learning during the third National lockdown has seen outstanding results reports Shrewsbury Colleges Group Principal James Staniforth, whilst addressing Shrewsbury Business Chamber members during an online networking event.
The college, which enrolled nearly 3600 students across A Levels and vocational courses in the last year has successfully transitioned from face to face education, to a new look programme of digital learning during the current lockdown.
“We have learned a lot in the last year about how we can use Microsoft Teams to maximise learning and teach our students the key skills that they will need when they enter the workplace” James explained.
“Early in the pandemic we completed a lot of training for staff and students on how to use this digital platform and so when the country locked down in January, we were well prepared for the months ahead.”
“We have 1200 students with 100% attendance across 2021 to date who we are all very proud of. We have been able to leverage break our rooms and the chat functions to encourage students to open up more when perhaps they would be less confident to do so in person.”
“One of the beautiful things we have seen over the last 12 months is the rising number of students looking to study health and social care. Many have seen the challenges the NHS have faced over the last 12 months and that has motivated them to want to become our health professionals of tomorrow.”
“Our young people are keen to contribute and do their bit. One of our students put their skills into practice early in the pandemic and manufactured 12,000 clips for PPE visors, which was enough for all NHS front line staff in the county.”
“The pandemic has also provided a lot of opportunities for us to reflect on the way that we do things. Whilst many of our courses are more suited to being taught in person, others such as accountancy could be taught as a distant learning course instead”
“A big success has been ensuring the safety of our students and staff. By implementing our own track and trace team, we quickly ensured that students who tested positive were isolating, and so 98% of students could continue studying on campus as normal towards the end of last year.
The college is currently in the process of a phased return to face-to-face learning with 12,000 lateral flow tests completed over a two week period.
“We believe that the managed approach we’re taking is clear, easy to understand as well as implement and will offer reassurance to students, parents/carers and staff.”
What can Shrewsbury Business Chamber do to support you going forward?
Encourage the business community to work hard with education to provide work experience opportunities.
Do you think the opinion of going to University will change post Covid-19?
We have seen the proportion of A-level students going to university decline in Shrewsbury in the last five years anyway as students have chosen to explore alternatives like degree apprenticeships . A lot of students who were unsure are now electing to do vocational courses and pursue opportunities which don’t require going into higher education. At the same time, more than a third of our students continue to progress to Russell Group universities and this is unlikely to change in the future.
What subject has grown the most over your time as Principal and what would you like to see grow in the future?
We have seen a huge rise in students studying A Level psychology and BTEC health and social care. Our construction courses have also grown in popularity. I hope to see engineering develop further. We recently acquired funding to build a new automotive engineering centre that will incorporate training for new electric/hybrid cars. I would love to create a digital centre with a digital curriculum and becomes integrated into the business community.
How can you ensure students learn soft skills such as professionalism and good manner?
We make it part of their curriculum. But we also need continued Work experience opportunities which gives students a sense of how businesses operate. Time management and resilience are valuable skills for their future careers.