Charlie Barlow, Head of Education & Training, and Hayley Wren, NCS Programme Manager, discuss how Southend United Community & Educational Trust’s Education department has adapted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How have you as a department adapted since COVID-19 began?
CB: As a department we’ve had to take an alternative approach towards our delivery of the students’ qualification. With the help of our education providers, League Football Education, we’ve managed to safely and efficiently use an online learning platform called Showbie. As a team we’ve had to adapt to working from home and ensuring our communication to the students and each other has been approachable and more regular than usual.
HW: With Summer 2020 being repurposed due to COVID-19, we’ve adapted by focusing on the new Alternative programme, which will engage the young people taking part to get involved within their local community.
What has delivery looked like since COVID-19 began?
CB: On Monday mornings, the education staff set learners a task through Showbie which must be submitted by Tuesday afternoons. The students have a day off on Wednesdays before a new task is set on Thursdays and handed in on Fridays.
HW: We’re in the mix of creating the new Alternative programme.
What were your initial priorities when it was announced that face-to-face engagement would be suspended due to COVID-19?
CB: Our initial priority was to ensure the students could still complete their course remotely and to the best of their ability.
HW: Once announced by the NCS Trust that NCS would be going online, that became our main priority throughout lockdown.
What have been some of the biggest challenges posed by COVID-19? And how have you overcome these challenges?
CB: The biggest challenge would certainly be ensuring the students stay engaged. Having our robust games programme temporarily taken away has been tough for us. The tutors have had to create a different learning style so the students can understand the tasks. The tutors have kept tasks fun which can be done safely at home. Another big challenge has not been having access to our facilities at Roots Hall and we mustn’t take this for granted.
HW: NCS being cancelled this summer has been the biggest challenge. This has had a big impact on my mental health and I was pretty down for about a week or so after hearing the news. I’m now focusing my energy on the new Alternative programme which I’m excited about.
How have the students/YP on NCS adjusted during this period?
CB: Overall, I think we can all say this has been more successful than we first thought and I’m pleased to be able to say that. Two of our second year learners, Lewis Telling and Billy Appleton, have been offered Sports Coaching Apprenticeships with us. They both completed their college qualification remotely and were then successful after three waves of remote interviews. Lewis and Billy will be starting with us in September if we’re back delivering within the local community by then.
HW: The NCS Trust has been conducting all communication due to GDPR. However, we have a Facebook page set up for the YP who were due to go on Summer 2020. They were disappointed that the programme had been cancelled but fully understood.
What is the future looking like in terms of delivery?
CB: The future is looking bright. We’ve recruited a good amount of new students for next year, both returning and new learners who have just completed their GCSEs. Hopefully, if the virus continues to stay at a safe R rate, then we can be back to delivering as normal in September and that’s our full intention.
HW: We’ll be running the new Alternative programme in August which will focus on the young people giving back to their local community. Autumn will run as normal just without the residential phase and will only be for our college students. Summer 2021 will be bigger than ever!