Lessons for a post-COVID world
We've only been back at college for a couple of weeks, but with multiple updates on school’s closures and exam cancellations, it seems like a year’s worth of policy decisions have already been made in that time. My team and I are working hard to ensure that students are able to progress to their next steps. Most of our students completed their UCAS applications last year and have offers already. They are now applying for Apprenticeships in the digital sector and I am sure they will be successful in obtaining offers to work with some of Ada’s amazing industry partners. It seems that we will continue navigating this crisis for a while longer and so it is important that we take stock of what we have learned: from how we managed remote learning back in Spring 2020 and what to improve upon, to the lessons we can take with us into a post-COVID world.
As the National College for Digital Skills we're really lucky in that all of our students are issued with a laptop at the beginning of their time with us. Of course, this does not mean that they all have suitable wifi connections at home, or a quiet and dedicated workspace, but it is a start. It meant that we did not have to scramble to get devices to them, or wait for the government to catch up with the need to help schools and colleges with this fundamental requirement of learning from home. Seeing the difficulties other schools and colleges have faced to continue learning remotely really hits home how crucial it is that we prioritise digital infrastructure in the UK’s education system which is currently leaving those from the poorest communities at a significant disadvantage.
For our pick of online learning resources, click here.
Focussing on Mental Health
One of the greatest challenges we’re facing right now is protecting our mental health. Staying at home and not interacting might shield you from COVID infection, but it’s not great for physical wellbeing and it has an adverse effect on mental wellbeing. At Ada, we’re encouraging our students to maintain a schedule, if only to hang on to a semblance of normality. Getting enough sleep, at the right time, getting up as usual and getting dressed, getting out during the day and having as much off-screen time as is possible, is crucial. Of course, all these seemingly easy things are difficult or even overwhelming for many right now so we all have to keep communicating with each other about how we are feeling so we can best support each other. A lesson which we should all endeavour to take with us beyond the current crisis.
For more tips on looking after your mental health during this time, click here.
Many school and college leaders are doing about 5 jobs all at the same time, including learning how to administer the rapid result test which were delivered on the first day of term, only to be told learners and students were to be remote on the second day of term (sigh). There have also been updates about exams, first with the lack of clarity around BTEC exams which were already taking place. I'm continually in discussions with my team about how we will address the latest challenges, with local Heads about what other schools are doing and what advice they can give, and with exams boards to seek clarity on what the next steps are. The past 10 months have been challenging. With each new curve ball thrown our way we’ve learned to take a deep breath, and simply keep going; something that has been made all the easier through continuous collaboration both inside and outside of Ada’s walls (both real and virtual!).
Although we eagerly welcome the light at the end of this tunnel, this crisis has shown up many of our society’s failings, and so it is my hope that our world will not simply return to ‘normal’, but that our idea of normal becomes something kinder, inclusive, and rooted in equality. For our students, Ada’s values of creativity, curiosity, collaboration, rigour and resilience will be the character traits they learn during their time with us and will ensure their success in a post-COVID world.
Tina’s comments were originally published in Computer Weekly.
If you're struggling with your mental health, all students at Ada have access to Kooth: a free, anonymous, online support system. Use your Ada email to register here.