UCAS Information – HNC & HND Engineering

Additional contextualised information for UCAS references – HNC & HND Engineering

Since all of our higher students are higher apprentices, one of the main issues our HNs have faced during the pandemic has been the worry of job losses. To date, at least one higher apprentice has been made redundant with another most likely set to lose his job at the end of furlough. This has led to significant worries and a serious impact on mental health - we have learners worried to come into college and go to work due to anxiety and fears of the virus. Some learners are still solely remote learning, due to having family members in the high-risk categories and concerns for their wellbeing. 

In addition, general working has been made more difficult, largely impacted by reduced face to face time with their teachers. Some of the practical and workshop-based units have been particularly difficult to teach and manage during lockdown and the pandemic. Even now back at college, due to social distancing measures, it is difficult to properly demonstrate and guide students through a process. There is no reduction the practical skills required for the programme, resulting in sessions being used predominantly to complete these necessary workshop activities, thus reducing the opportunity to delivery theory in these face to face sessions; this is particular problematic for tough theory topics. 

For programmes like Engineering that require practical activities, issues with decontaminating equipment used by learners have put significant constraints on completing these practical activities. For equipment that cannot be cleaned using wipes or sprays, it needs to be left for a minimum of 72hours, as per the CLEAPSS guidance, thus reducing the frequency it can be utilised by learners and impacting on the rate at which certain practical activities can be completed. Due to the complexity of delivering practical experiment sessions to the different engineering-based programmes, the HN learners are doing far less practical work than usual; pre-COVID. This means theory is not being put into practical context as often and there is a reduced opportunity to develop practical skills.

Compounding these issues is the fact that some learners have struggled to work from home due to having poor Wi-Fi connection, limited space due to small residences, or distractions due to lots of other family members at home. Apprentice learners also do not get iPads, so we have had to rely on our HN learners having a reasonable level of technology at home to be able to work efficiently. This has led to some learners investing in new iPads/laptops to be able to keep up with work, leading to a financial impact on the learners as well as the previously mentioned mental wellbeing and educational impacts. 

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.