A focus on Education: How can we support students to get ‘back on track’?
Written by Merossa Cofie, Project Manager for ELBA’s Mentoring Works
When COVID-19 hit and schools and offices were closed, it had a significant impact on the programmes and opportunities that ELBA’s Education team delivers to the young people of London. Mentees, who were used to visiting their mentor’s office in the City or Canary Wharf every fortnight, and groups of students who had become accustomed to career insight visits, workshops or groups of volunteers visiting their school and running activities, have had to adapt to a different way of working, just as the ELBA and BIG Alliance teams have had to adapt to a different way of delivering.
The Education team rose to the challenge of adapting our programmes and interventions so that these could be delivered remotely and virtually, yet remain engaging, insightful and impactful. We all felt that there was never a more crucial time to support young people, to reassure and inspire them and do everything we could to safeguard the continuation of their exploration and development.
For the Mentoring Works programme, the end of summer term also marks the end of our programme, which usually culminates in a series of Recognition Events for our mentors and mentees. Although we were not able to bring large groups together to celebrate face-to-face this year, we have supported groups to remotely reflect, give thanks and celebrate together. Across the Education team, we give huge thanks for all our volunteers’ time, energy, hard work and commitment this year, especially given the flexibility required in the final third of the academic year.
Now our schools, colleges and universities are officially closed for the summer holidays, the team’s attention turns to planning for the Autumn Term. We are all still faced with uncertainties – no more so than our education institution partners, who are planning the full return of students in September and how that will work, logistically.
Perhaps the biggest question for schools is how to support students to get back on track when they’ve had a significant gap in their learning. There are major concerns over growing gaps in educational attainment, with Deputy Director at Department for Education (DfE), Vicky Stewart, predicting the attainment gap could widen by up to 75%. This is likely to prompt schools to review the curriculum, and implement measures such as scaling back on their extra curricular provision in favour of accelerated learning programmes or “catch-up classes”. Whilst government guidance and best practice will continue to develop and be shared, schools’ approaches and solutions will vary and the Education team will need to continue to adapt to work with the schools’ timelines, capacity and align with priorities and needs. We know that schools are also looking at how to address the mental impact of COVID-19 on our young people. There is a lot of work to be done and we have to ask ourselves, what can we do to optimise our support of students at this time?
Students will need more support than ever to get back on track. At ELBA, we are consulting our partners about how we can support and where we are best placed to add value. The careers exploration aspects of our programmes will remain; there is still a strong need for students to develop and improve their key employability skills and competencies and explore options for future studies, training and careers. To support this we are also introducing the national Skills Builder framework this year. In addition, where feasible, we will make connections to support students in raising their academic engagement, performance and motivation.
We are grateful to have a wealth of professional, experienced volunteers from a range of backgrounds and with broad expertise, ready to give their time to share their knowledge and skills with our young people. As parents grow concerned and students ponder their futures, we must, as a society, reassure our young people that they will not be the “lost generation” but will emerge resilient and motivated to achieve their goals with our full support.
If you would like to learn more about the work of the Education team and opportunities to get involved, please visit our page.
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