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Education insights: Challenges to FE, reduced exams and the plight of teacher-parents

With coronavirus still dominating all sectors, see below this week’s education news to stay in the loop about how education programmes, institutions and individuals are keeping up with the demands of the ever-changing landscape. 

Education secretary makes ‘guarantee’ T Levels will be ‘available’ to adults in future

We were pleased to hear that T Levels will be an option for adults of any age to study as part of the government’s new lifetime skills guarantee, which involves offering all adults in England a full level 3 qualification for free from April 2021. The DfE noted, however, that T Levels for adults are not expected to be made available until all T Levels are rolled out and embedded into the skills system. Whilst there appears to be a discrepancy as to when the offer to adults will be made available, the fact that they’re expected to target individuals beyond 16 to 19-year-olds in future will undoubtedly open doors to adult learners, providing them with new skills valued by employers.   

Apprentices stuck in limbo as Covid hits functional skills tests

Leaders of providers, who say they cannot physically visit some of their work-based learners to invigilate their tests, especially in the care and health sectors, have described the situation as “heart-breaking” for those who are waiting for the exam in order to complete their programme. Calls have been made for Ofqual to revert to centre-assessed grades for these qualifications, but the regulator has rejected the plea and stressed that it is down to awarding bodies to come up with a solution. Whilst secondary schools have been a focal point during the pandemic, it’s also important to reflect on how the pandemic has affected Further Education. With many apprentices being instructed to work from home in line with government guidelines whilst others are open, we hope awarding organisations are able find the most practical solution for all involved.

Scotland makes first move in reducing exams. Who is next?

After this summer's attempts at producing replacement grades, an exam balancing act is emerging - with a desire to hold exams, but also recognising they will have to be cut back after so much lost time. Scotland has been the first to announce how this will work - cutting the volume in half by switching National 5 qualifications to assessed grades rather than exams. Given the turbulent nature of the debate over grades this summer, it will be interesting to see whether England, Wales and Northern Ireland adopt similar tactics or offer alternative solutions.

Covid: Plea to end remote teaching 'postcode lottery'

The threat of more disruption to face-to-face lessons means the "postcode lottery" of remote teaching standards must end, a parent group says. Welsh parents have complained that when lockdown began, ‘Schools assumed everyone was digitally excluded and traumatised. They didn't cater for kids who could work and wanted to’ leaving most pupils with no work to do. Parents comment that it would’ve been much more effective to presume all pupils had online access to learn through. This shows that, despite school’s best efforts to adapt to remote learning, there is more room for governments to identify where and how to provide support.

Why teacher-parents need help and support right now

At a time when all teachers are stressed, those who are parents face additional sources of anxiety, says Emma Sheppard. The fragile web of post-lockdown childcare and the logistics of live teaching while isolating with young families are just some of the predominant preoccupations of teachers who are managing their parenting responsibilities with the demands of returning to (an attempt at) a socially distanced workplace. This goes to show the importance of communication and empathy between school leaders and teachers toward supporting the wellbeing and mental health of parent-teachers in the short term and beyond.

About the author

Richard Brown

Richard's clients include Barclays, Shell, Vodafone and Kellogg's. Richard graduated from the University of St Andrews with a 2:1 MA Honours in English and Modern History. Having guided hundreds of young people through the National Citizen Service, Richard joined Hopscotch in 2018 to develop education programmes that bolster the skills of young people both inside and outside of the classroom.

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