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

Learning loss is a well-documented challenge faced by parents, learners and educators during the course of the pandemic. There’s no doubt that barriers to learning (including the recent extended lockdowns) have the potential to widen achievement gaps, affect short-term outcomes for learners as well as having longer term implications in terms of progression prospects and economic impacts. But what if we turned this on its head? What if we did not look at what has been lost during this time but instead looked at what has been gained? With the right interventions, engagement strategies, and adaptations to delivery and assessment, learning did not have to stop. In fact, it had the opportunity to grow and take on new and interesting forms… 

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 solutionJack Edwards, Academy Manager at Swift Childcare, shared his experience of the measures they’ve taken to combat learning loss, and how we’ve worked together to get through the pandemic: 

When the pandemic hit, large scale adaptation was required across the board. We had to facilitate remote learning which was something we had never done before our entire delivery model went out of the window as we started a blank slate. Functional Skills exams were not able to be sat so we focused on revision and preparation for when it was safe to go ahead. We also used the remote invigilation service which was a great way to minimise disruption and we saw success from learners being able to pass their exams from home.  

Where learners weren’t able to be observed in the workplace, we adapted and asked for further evidence of them putting their learning into practice in different ways, such as photos and witness testimonies from employers. We also used the time to gather more feedback from employers which was so useful and helped us to bridge the gap between employer, provider, and assessor.  

A clean slate with so many long-term benefits 

Despite the stress and upheaval, being able to essentially start again with our delivery plan and model was a blessing because we’ve been able to focus on the things that really work for both students and employers alike. Remote delivery wouldn’t have felt achievable 18 months ago but now it really works. Learners have more time for self-directed study, it has relaxed time and deadline pressures of exams, and removed the travel burden for students by not having to travel to study every day. 

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. 

Pastoral support for our learners and the importance of learner monitoring  

We have placed significant emphasis on pastoral support to help with everything from cyber security, to mental health and how to manage lone working. We’ve also had every learner on an individual action plan to see exactly where learning loss could occur and where we can intervene. It’s important to us to have that 360-degree view of our learners to ensure that we can support them through their learning journey and keep them engaged in their programmes. Our key message to them throughout the pandemic has been about the importance of working together and that we’ve got their back – we’ll get through this together, one step at a time. The response to this has not only been positive from a learner perspective, but also from our staff members as it has generated a strong spirit of collaboration and pulling together towards a collective goal. 

Working to facilitate essential work placements 

Thankfully, we were able to facilitate all of our nursery work placements which was a significant achievement and provided much needed support in the sector during such a turbulent time. The adaptations made by NCFE and CACHE reduced physical observations and being able to access placements virtually was instrumental in our success and made a huge difference.  

Celebrating success 

Throughout the past year we’ve had to cope with a lot, but we’ve still managed to celebrate our success and the success of our apprentices. We were really proud to have achieved Training Provider of the Year for Birmingham at the Apprenticeship Awards in 2020, a massive feat and testament to the hard work of the team and our learners. We’ve also 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! 

Not only are we celebrating our learners and employers success through the pandemic, were also proud to have expanded the business into Swift Digital Marketing and Swift Continuous Improvement. 

A word of advice 

If I were to offer a piece of advice to fellow providers as a result of the lessons we’ve learned throughout this pandemic, it would be to embrace change and evolve your practices to facilitate what is best for the learner. Check and challenge those practices on a really regular basis – even weekly – and also look at what strategies can be embedded long-term, in a post-Covid world.  We never thought we could have achieved the changes that we’ve managed over the past year, but we have and we’re stronger than ever – together we can make a real difference! 

 

At NCFE, we’ve done all we can during this time to ensure that our centres and learners are guided and supported during this challenging time. You can find information on the ways that we are supporting our centres in our dedicated Covid hub on our website.  

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‘Learning loss’ is a well-documented challenge faced by parents, learners and educators during the course of the pandemic. There’s no doubt that barriers to learning (including the recent extended lockdowns) have the potential to widen achievement gaps, affect short-term outcomes for learners as well as having longer term implications in terms of progression prospects and economic impacts.