UCAS Information – BTEC Level 3 Engineering

Additional contextualised information for UCAS references – Engineering department

Under normal circumstances, teaching of the Level 3 Engineering programme at Harlow College involves the equivalence of three days of teaching, with each morning and afternoon session being three hours in length. During one of these sessions, one hour would be given over to a tutorial session, during which time they: undertake pastoral activities; prepare for progression, through the completion of UCAS, applying for apprenticeships, and work on employability skills; and complete additional work to meet the BTEC Engineering unit assessment requirements. As such, a learner receives three with their teachers per week. 

The last Engineering class on site at Harlow College before COVID-19 lockdown was the morning of 18th March 2020. After this time, teachers endeavoured to adapt sessions, and associated teaching resources, to enable learners to engage with the syllabus in a distance learning capacity. In many cases, this involved teachers having to learn new platforms for delivery whilst trying to keep learners engaged with the new style of teaching, in addition to assessing how well learners were coping with the mental health pressures of lockdown. Unsurprisingly, all practical activities ceased.

The new academic year in autumn 2020 started later than usual for the Engineering department at Harlow College, with the first day of teaching being Monday 14th September. This was to allow additional time for implementing plans for the safe return of both staff and learners to campus, whilst also completing the more time-consuming processes of online enrolment for all learners. In addition to these missed sessions, Engineering learners are also experiencing less contact time; in order to reduce the total number of learners on campus, Engineering classes only run on site for the morning sessions, with afternoon sessions being delivered in a remote manner. 

An additional constraint is that, in order to limit the number of learners on campus, individuals can no longer come to college outside of their timetabled classes to utilise facilities to support their progression on programme in the same manner as previously. Many learners used “drop in” workshops to complete assignments, preferring these to working at home as there were less distractions. Only learners with problems accessing the internet, with travel issues, or similar barriers, can attend these workshops sessions at this time, to ensure they can continue with their work.

These measures have been employed by Harlow College to meet government COVID-19 guidance for FE institutions whilst also reducing the chances of a large-scale outbreak, which would result in all sessions being delivered remotely. Although this policy maximises the chances of continued onsite teaching, it is clear that such measures create repercussions for the learning process; staff are reporting they are proceeding through the syllabus at a slower rate than under normal conditions and learners are receiving less direct attention throughout all sessions, whether onsite or online. Despite these challenges, learners and staff alike have reported that they appreciate the policies designed to keep them safe and recognise the desire to ensure onsite sessions can continue, even if in a reduced capacity.