We are delighted to welcome Edinburgh College’s Student Wellbeing Adviser Jenni Moreland back with a blog about how the college’s Student Experience team are getting on with supporting students…
Summer term at Edinburgh College officially started on Monday 20 April. To what extent can we expect ‘Business As Usual’ as colleges strive to sustain meaningful engagement with students? Wellbeing remains high on the agenda in the face of ongoing uncertainties around the Covid-19 pandemic and daily news updates are so grim.
Here is an overview to follow on from my previous blog about how members of the Student Experience team at Edinburgh College have been working towards this.
The role and work of the Learner Development Tutors (LDT’s) at Edinburgh College has been key in supporting the meaningful engagement mentioned previously. Providing a link for students between curricular teams and services, both internal and external, forms the main part of that vital pastoral care which is at the heart of the LDT’s work.
They have been the first port of call for learners needing a range of advice and support when college life was face to face and on campus, and Covid-19 has not changed that. As students’ anxieties soar about completing courses, gaining their qualifications and wondering about progression, alongside the day to day challenges of life under lockdown, the LDT’s have continued to provide a reassuring presence. They have checked in with vulnerable students, offering chats through Skype or Zoom following all the guidelines around security, they have liaised with course teams using Microsoft Teams, and have continued with the 1:1 personal progress reviews online, as well as working with Wellbeing Team colleagues to design and collate a bank of Covid-related accessible wellbeing tools and links. Group tutorials have also continued at the regular timetabled slot offering a crucial sense of continuity and social contact.
Concerns around finance and particularly digital poverty remain high on the wellbeing agenda, and LDTs have been quick to identify students in need and make appropriate referrals to colleagues for funding. The uptake of support from PC loan scheme Pass IT On may well prove to be pivotal to the success and self esteem of some learners. This example of a good news story illustrates that well – a student who was struggling with three children at home and one device between them all was referred to Pass IT On by her LDT. The manager of the organisation came to her home, observing social distancing clearly, set up the PC which she was delighted with as she has low confidence in IT skills. While discussing her needs and situation she disclosed a number of underlying health conditions, and his response was to waive the usual health assessment that would precede someone with a disability being able to keep the equipment permanently, so she is now set up for completing course work along with a huge reduction in family tension and pressure. Find out more about Pass It On here: http://www.passitoncomputers.co.uk/loans/
Turning now to Learning Support colleagues – it has been noted how important it has been for some students to continue the online contact with their external support tutors and mental health mentors, most of whom are funded through SAAS Disabled Student Allowance. The regular issue of a Study Skills Survival Guide specifically geared towards managing learning at home continues.
The welfare of the significant number of unaccompanied young people enrolled on mostly ESOL courses remains an important consideration – our Safeguarding Team Leader continues to support these vulnerable young people by attending their online Looked After And Accommodated review meetings, which allows the continuing involvement of carers and social workers in the students’ education and provides a way for any issues to be conveyed to lecturing staff.
It is hoped that a twice weekly Wellbeing Drop-In will soon be offered through the College Moodle Platform, either by live chat or video, to enhance the provision already in place. This is currently in development and the purpose will be to allow students to access some informal support and wellbeing tools, as well as share what has been working for them.
By way of ending this entry it is important to highlight the work that is being done around looking forward and supporting transitions, particularly for Care-Experienced young people. The college lead on coordinating support for this group has been in contact recently with three of the local Champions Boards to strengthen links, and through this has had live video chats with six young people who are considering coming to college, offering information about funding, available support and reassurance. This planning ahead is also the focus of a recently formed Covid Emergency Group involving college colleagues, Skills Development Scotland, the Developing the Young Workforce team, Communities and Lifelong Learning, along with senior teachers from schools. This group will aim to plan support for vulnerable young people in the 16-19 age range in recognition of the challenges that lie ahead in an uncertain labour market, and the future impact on mental health and wellbeing.