Students – Carry on studying.

I write this column during unprecedented times, and today’s publication marks two weeks since Nelson and Colne College Group, along with all schools and colleges nationally, mobilised our curriculum teams to entirely deliver teaching and learning online as a result of the national lockdown.

The week of the switch from classroom to online delivery was extremely challenging and emotional for colleagues and students in all departments across College. In many cases, this was our last few days with students heading to universities or jobs this autumn, and we felt we didn’t really have chance to properly say goodbye. I think our hopes to be back after the Easter holidays were unrealistic, though we remain optimistic that we can get back to our normal working practices soon. I’m sure we will be able to celebrate the achievement of this year’s departing students once this situation is behind us.

Though our day to day lives have been turned upside down, it was an overhaul borne out of necessity, and an unwavering commitment to the education of our students and the community that we serve. I’m really pleased that we managed to get our systems up and running to enable students, teachers and our support staff to operate remotely. I’m grateful to those very few staff members who continue to deliver our essential business continuity, so that we can all learn or work at home, be paid and pay our suppliers, and look after our premises in readiness for our return. 

A degree of uncertainty remains about summer exams. We expect more clarity in the coming days on how students will receive their grades, probably in July. The overall message is that students’ qualifications will be awarded based on how well they have performed and continue to perform outside of formal exams. In all cases we have encouraged those students due to complete at College this summer to continue to study, in order improve their skills and knowledge, and be in the best possible position to progress to university or into an Apprenticeship once this crisis has abated.

Our students typically make great progress in this final term, as they practice what they have learned, and consolidate their knowledge. We are doing everything we can to ensure that this progress is not lost. Our teaching teams are continuing to teach online, and all students know where they need to go to participate in learning and access learning and assessment materials. Our expectation is that all our students continue to engage with College, and we will make contact where that’s not happening.

In many cases we have had to address the needs of students who don’t have internet access at home, and in some cases provide a computer they can use during the day while parents are also working remotely.

We are in the middle of a national lockdown to protect the most vulnerable in society, and to protect our valuable NHS so that it can cope with the volume of patients needing treatment. I call on our students to abide by the guidance offered. Take daily exercise alongside your studies, but above all, stay at home to protect the NHS.

I wish you all good health in the weeks ahead.