Education partners and volunteers adapt brilliantly to the new normal

The closure of schools, colleges and universities and the implementation of systems and resources to continue to engage millions of students, in all their subjects, and support the continuation of their studies from home, has posed a huge challenge to education institutions and their partners over the past few months.

ELBA is proud to be part of this culture of adaptation and continuation. We have seen large numbers of students still being able to engage and explore ELBA’s education activities and our professional business volunteers are still supporting with the benefit of their time and expertise.

The Year 10 and Sixth Form/college students on our Mentoring Works programme quickly adapted to telephone mentoring, with one of our partner schools reflecting on how the programme has helped students:

“It has been a great help to know that our students have someone else to talk to during this difficult time. The fact that the students maintained their mentoring relationships post March is a testament to the effectiveness of the programme.”

It has been fascinating and heartening to hear how much our education partners have been able to do at this time, to continue the encouragement and motivation of students, despite the upheaval.

One example was Cardinal Pole Catholic School’s Virtual Culture & Activities Week, in which students were encouraged to participate in a range of activities. This included a virtual visit to Paris and practising some French on their ‘travels’, writing a poem, creating their own animation and learning more about the Black Lives Matter movement. The week closed with a Virtual Sports Day, with students being required to don their school PE kits and there were still prizes for the winners! Students shared their completed activities via the school sharing platform, Show My Homework, with the best submissions winning a £10 e-Amazon voucher. This was a great opportunity for students to increase their cultural capital, morale, feel part of the school environment and explore subject matters and activities which are not always captured in the curriculum.

Our university partners also moved quickly to convert their usual events for access online. For London Metropolitan University, this included their flagship end of year employability event, “Next Steps”, which saw 164 students take part in sessions including ‘Lockdown Learning’ and ‘Covid-19: impact on the graduate labour market.’ They introduced new sessions on video interviewing and online assessment activities, with existing sessions adjusted to respond to the new challenges, including “Job searching in challenging times”.  Additionally, they launched a monthly ‘Labour Market’ webinar, which highlights sectors which are recruiting students and graduates. University of East London have also worked hard to adapt to a virtual world, with their Graduate Careers Fair on 22nd July taking place online, with employers, partner organisations and ELBA talking directly to students about their futures. University of Sunderland have created a virtual campus tour for students that aren’t able to visit in person. Our universities have also adapted to running sessions online, including Queen Mary University and University of Greenwich continuing to host panel events and Q&As with students.

Our company partners have also continued to innovate and offer online opportunities – this month, the Linklaters Social Impact Team ran a virtual Linklaters Business Foundation Course. The week-long programme provided students from local state schools an insight into working at a global law firm and an opportunity to take on ‘real work’ tasks – learning about the work of the business teams and lawyers. Linklaters noted:

“During Covid-19 this virtual programme has replaced the one-week Business Foundation Course for students from local state schools and students referred by Linklaters colleagues; including family, friends and clients. The programme was designed for students to complete in their own time across the week, with professional ‘real work’ tasks being set online for them to complete every day. Linklaters volunteers created Career Profile videos to give the students a real insight into the day to day work of a range of Business Teams as well as the work of lawyers. The programme was intended to develop and enhance the students’ transferable employability skills.”

With all of this fantastic hard work and energy to continue supporting students, we would like to commend all of our educational partners. We will all continue to adapt to this new virtual world and ELBA will continue to support our educational partners with ideas and opportunities. Heading into the new 2020-21 academic year, the Education team at ELBA will help to get students back on track, by making connections to support students to raise their academic engagement, performance and motivation, and this will include a big push to support the digital divide, to ensure all students can be engaged and supported moving forward.

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