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Successful outcomes in the face of adversity

This page was updated on 14 September 2022

At NCFE, our vision is that every learner will achieve their full potential, regardless of the challenges they may face. 2020-21 and 2021-22 were particularly difficult years for learners, will all the hurdles that they faced throughout the pandemic. 

On this page, we’re delighted to share some stories of wonderful learners who succeeded against the odds and are now flourishing in the next stage of their lives – including working in our NHS.

Read our collection of short case studies to find out more about the fantastic things NCFE learners achieved during the pandemic. 

2020-21 Aspiration Awards Against All Odds winner: Lucas Renyard

Lucas RenyardLucas’s excellent work ethic, enthusiasm and hunger for taking on opportunities and responsibilities, alongside his desire to help his fellow-learners, make him worthy of a nomination for ‘Learner of the Year’. However his tutors at Eastleigh College secretly nominated Lucas for the ‘Against all Odds’ category in the NCFE Aspiration Awards to reward his outstanding resilience and determination.

Read Lucas's
full story

2020-21 Aspiration Awards Learner of the Year: Katie Albert

Learner of the Year Katie demonstrated a true passion for working within the education sector when starting her journey at Blackpool and the Fylde College in September 2019 on the NCFE CACHE Level 2 Diploma for the Early Years Practitioner. With her strong work ethic, Katie was able to complete a maths qualification alongside the main programme, which included a weekly industry placement where she immersed herself in the role of an Early Years Practitioner. Through her hard work and determination, Katie was then able to progress onto the T Level in Education and Childcare – the government’s new flagship educational programme, providing a vocational alternative to A Levels.

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full story

2020-21 Aspiration Awards Learner of the Year (Highly Commended): Jodie Starling

Jodie StarlingJodie started the apprenticeship programme during the Covid-19 pandemic which for most is challenging enough, however there were several more barriers for Jodie. She found herself in a difficult situation after losing a close family member and the health of another close relative deteriorating. Instead of this discouraging Jodie, she was determined to carry on. Her tutor, Teodora Van Der Berg, explained: “Jodie is truly an exceptional learner and has shown everyone the importance of inner strength”.

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full story

NCFE’s remote invigilation supporting NHS keyworker to success

Jake ReadingJake Reading is a Functional Skills learner and NHS healthcare assistant and is completing his assessment through remote invigilation so he can take the next step in his journey to becoming a mental health nurse.

Jake commented: “This is my first time completing an NCFE Functional Skills qualification and being able to do the assessment remotely is great. The benefit of remote invigilation for me is the convenience of fitting in an exam around working full-time in the NHS as a keyworker, and juggling a busy home life with young children.

“My aspirations for the future are to build on my experience working in mental health, to apply for a degree course and ultimately become a mental health nurse. Gaining my NCFE Functional Skills qualification will support me on this journey and it’s great that the process has been so easy. The flexibility of remote invigilation and online learning is a fantastic opportunity for me to gain new skills and a qualification, which will enable me to progress my career.”

End-point assessment success for frontline healthcare worker

Iona HendersonIona Henderson, from the Emergency Assessment Unit in South Tyneside Foundation Trust, has successfully completed the Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) assessment, the first part of her end-point assessment (EPA), with NCFE for the Level 2 Healthcare Support Worker apprenticeship standard. This is a fantastic achievement for Iona, who has been working extremely hard in the healthcare sector during the pandemic, and she was one of the first to complete the MCQ assessment through a digital proctoring process.

Digital solutions for remote assessments

NCFE has proactively worked with regulators to enable flexibilities and expanded their digital solutions so that all assessments can now take place remotely.

Jonathan Kosyl, Programme Leader (Apprenticeships - Health) at Sunderland College, said: “We’re really proud of Iona’s success with the first part of her EPA; she has developed well throughout her apprenticeship and she is very well thought of on her ward within the South Tyneside Foundation Trust. It’s great that Iona has still been able to progress and complete the first part of her end-point assessment using digital solutions.”

From an apprentice’s perspective

Iona commented: “The global pandemic resulted in me not being able to take my end-point assessment MCQ exam in the usual way, however it was great to be able to complete it virtually. Instead of having an exam invigilator present with me, I used the new proctoring system.

“Initially I felt a little nervous as I had never come across anything like this before, but I was given full guidance and information on how to set up the software prior to the date of my assessment. As soon as the assessment started I felt at ease and it was a nice environment in which to be doing it. I didn’t feel nervous or under pressure at all and it was good to have no possible distractions. I’m very pleased with my end result and proud of myself as I received a ‘Merit’ in the assessment.

“All of the guidance from my college and NCFE helped me towards the final result that I was hoping for.”

Turning learning loss into learning gains – adapting and evolving is key

Birmingham based Swift ACI Childcare offers the NCFE CACHE Childcare Standards in Level 2 and Level 3, as well as delivering Functional Skills through our Remote Invigilation solution. Jack Edwards, Academy Manager at Swift Childcare, 

“The adaptations to qualifications facilitated by NCFE have really helped us to overcome the potential loss to learning through their unparalleled support. We have hundreds of apprentices who could have been severely affected by a loss in learning but because of the measures we were able to collectively put in place, as little as 3% were negatively impacted."

"We’ve seen some incredible success from our learners passing their Functional Skills qualifications and achieving distinctions and passes in their End Point Assessments despite significant barriers to learning. They’ve really done us proud!"

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Learners at Burnley College celebrate success

Childcare and Education learners at Burnley College achieve successful outcomes despite interruptions and alterations due to Covid-19.

Overcoming challenges

At the beginning of the pandemic, Burnley College put together a comprehensive remote learning programme to support their Childcare and Education learners to achieve even without access to the classroom. Learners were actively engaged in the remote learning approach, which was a great way to prepare them for entering employment or starting university. Lecturers at Burnley College worked extremely hard to ensure the best possible outcome for all learners.

Lianne Bradford, Early Years Lecturer at Burnley College, commented: “The support from NCFE during the Covid-19 pandemic was greatly appreciated. It was imperative for us that our learners would continue to progress, develop, and achieve regardless of the situation.”

Stepping stone to achieve future goals

CaitlinCaitlin, a CACHE Level 3 Childcare and Education learner at Burnley College, said: “I thought this course was an excellent way to introduce and progress my learning within the early years and a great stepping stone which I’m glad I took to achieve my future goals. I really enjoyed the mix of college and placement as I felt like it was a good balance. It helped me to learn how to work in the workplace as well as gaining practical knowledge of childcare. I now feel ready to move onto studying primary teaching in the early years at university as this course has effectively prepared me for this.”

Another learner, Jasmine, commented: “I chose to do this course because I knew I wanted to work with children in the future and it seemed like a good option as I knew I would get lots of first-hand experience in the early years. Throughout my time on the course I have grown in confidence when working not only with children but with other members of staff which will set me up well in my journey to becoming a primary school teacher.”

End-point assessment success for Wiltshire College

Carla MaguireCarla Maguire, a Teaching Assistant apprentice at Wiltshire College, achieved end-point assessment success despite alterations to her assessment due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

NCFE proactively worked with regulators to enable flexibilities and provide alternative solutions to in-person assessments, if they couldn't go ahead due to the pandemic. These flexibilities allowed NCFE to respond quickly to the changing situation presented by Covid-19 and meet the needs of providers, employers and apprentices.

Sharon Hanney, Assessor at Wiltshire College, commented: “We’re so pleased with the outcome of Carla’s EPA. Carla was in Gateway as we were heading for lockdown, which was a concern for all of us. She rose to the challenge and completed her portfolio within 6 weeks, of 3 months, meaning that her portfolio could be presented before the college and school closed. Carla had completed all the training tasks that I had set throughout the apprenticeship, so she had lots of evidence to draw on and was able to produce a detailed portfolio.

“We had to wait to hear how the observation element could be carried out. As soon as I heard that Carla could submit a reflective account instead, I informed her and within two weeks this was submitted. It’s great that she was able to complete her apprenticeship despite the pandemic.

Carla said: “I’m truly overjoyed that I’ve completed my end-point assessment. What a journey it has been! I’m so proud to be able to take all I’ve learned forward in my role. I’ve got a new love for learning and appreciate the feedback from NCFE and Wiltshire College.”

Supporting learners at Fareham College to succeed during the pandemic

Faculty Director of Health, Science and Education at Fareham College, Michelle Young, shares how they have overcome the challenges that they have faced in the past year, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michelle said: “We have found it very tricky supporting our students to gain experience in the workplace. Encounters with employers are essential to learners developing their skills, knowledge, and behaviours ready for the workforce. Thankfully, employers that we work closely with have been very supportive, and with some timetable remodelling we’ve managed to ensure most students will get this experience at some point throughout the year.”

Recognising the positives

“Although it must be said that the situation this year has had some positive aspects. For this academic year we have added online sessions to most learners’ timetables, utilising the digital skills both staff and learners gained during the pandemic. We had this in our development plans to improve digital skills across the college, but the pandemic has allowed us to accelerate this development. These digital skills will also enable learners to be employment ready as they are essential workplace skills. The learners were very pleased we continued to teach virtual online live lessons.

Michelle added: “Throughout the pandemic, NCFE has provided us with clear information about any adaptions to qualifications in a timely manner and have kept us up to date through their website and emails. NCFE adapted the way they carried out external quality assurance at the end of the last academic year to ensure we were able to claim certificates when learners had completed and they gave detailed guidance on how to carry out CAG grades.”

Making the most of distance learning

Nichola, a learner from Aspire Sussex – a community-based Adult Education provider – is about to embark on her second distance learning course. Despite disruptions to learning over the past year, Nichola was determined not to let that affect her future.

After being furloughed by her employer at the start of the Covid pandemic, rather than seeing this as a barrier, the mother of two instead looked on the bright side and used it as an opportunity to develop herself.

Nichola explained: “When I was furloughed, I saw it as an opportunity to make time to develop my skills and learn something new. As a mother of two primary school-age children, I have experienced first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of my children and their peers. As a result, I wanted to do increase my awareness and understanding around this topic and put myself in a better position to support them.

“I have since secured a new job at one of the leading sixth form colleges in the county, where the knowledge I have gained from both of my courses with will be invaluable. I am so glad that I decided to study again as it has given me insight into a new profession and helped to guide me on a new career path. I would heartily recommend these qualifications.”

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South staffordshire collegeSouth Staffordshire College

Results day 10/08/2021
Early Years students.
Bio and quotes.

Hannah Day - Level Three Certificate in Childcare and Education

Hannah dayHannah was very shy when she started the course. She has grown in confidence and has proven to be an excellent practitioner in placement and also has developed her writing skills to achieve good grades in her studies. Hannah would like to continue to university next year after completing her studies.

“I’m studying Level 3 Early Years at Tamworth College. I got my first-year results where I achieved an A grade which I am very pleased with considering the pandemic that put pressure on the academic year with all of us having to work from home at most points of the year. My hard work did pay off and I am very happy with my A grade. My next steps are to continue studying at Tamworth College to go onto the second year where I hope to maintain my progress. I would like to thank my tutors Louise and Nita for helping me to get through this year and providing me with support on how to do assignments. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have achieved this grade and I am grateful for what they have done to help me get it. I also met good friends who I enjoy spending time with.“

Abigail Pritchard - Level Three Certificate in Childcare and Education

Abigail PritchardAbbie is a mature student who has returned to education this year. She has worked hard to complete all her studies and look after her young son. Abbie also plays an active part in college life; she is a course rep and student rep for the campus. Abbie would like to continue to higher education next year after completing her studies

"This year has been extremely difficult on all students due to the pandemic, we have had to work together with our tutors and each other in order to achieve our grades. There have been many hurdles along the way but thanks to our tutors the experience of studying from home was made less stressful, with support provided throughout. I'm looking forward to going into the second year of my Early Years Practitioner course."

Beatrice Baker - Diploma in Childcare and Education (Early Years Educator)

Beatrice BakerBeatrice has completed her level 3 Diploma in Childcare and Education (EYE) working hard to achieve high grades. Beatrice has enjoyed both her experiences at college and also in settings. She has now decided that she would like to carry on with her studies and has been offered a place at Stoke University to study Childhood studies and is also considering Staffordshire University to study the Foundation Degree in Early Years.

“I have achieved an A* and will continue with my studies to achieve the next stage within my qualifications. My future goal is to be able to run my own nursery and be able to use my knowledge to support children’s learning. Thank you so much to Louise and Nita for the past few years and for enabling me to achieve my grades and to build more confidence in myself. Without their support, I probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have.”

Loughborough CollegeLoughborough College

Results day 10/08/2021

Libby Shilton – Level 3 Technical Extended Diploma in Health and social Care

Libby ShiltonLibby achieved an A* in her qualification, the equivalent of three A levels, and her results mean she has secured a place on the University of Northampton’s specialist BSc Hons Paramedic Science course. Her ambition is to work as a paramedic and as part of her university course she will get to work with East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Libby said: “I’m over the moon. I’d prepared myself for the worst, but I’m really, really happy with my results. I like caring for people and have always wanted to work on ambulances. It’s a role that is very varied and has many different challenges because you come across so many different situations and people.”

Libby said learning over the last year has been particularly challenging due to lockdown as she thrives on face-to-face contact.

She said: “It was definitely a challenge for me. I prefer learning face-to-face because you can pick up more and ask little questions which help me understand information. Those little things make a big difference. My tutors were brilliant though. Without the support I got, I wouldn’t have got the grades I got.”

Jo Maher, Principal & CEO of Loughborough College

Jo Maher headshotJo said: “It has been fantastic to celebrate our brilliant learners on results day 2021. They have worked so hard and have overcome unprecedented challenges to achieve some incredible outcomes this year. At the same time, teaching staff across the FE sector have been exceptional in the way they’ve adapted to new guidelines and teaching practices and how they’ve supported our learners to achieve their ambitions.

“The achievements of our learners are the biggest success story for us. It’s what we get into further education for in the first place. But I would also say that the pandemic has tapped into an extraordinary well of resilience and adaptability amongst staff and learners. I have been blown away by the way in which people have risen to the numerous challenges over the last 18 months.

“We have a great relationship with NCFE who have been so supportive during the pandemic.”