If we can take one positive from 2020, it is the community spirit of everyone pulling together to show generosity and kindness to each other at such a difficult time.
Particularly at the beginning of the crisis in the UK, when we entered a national lockdown, hundreds of thousands of people stepped up to volunteer for the NHS, delivering food parcels and checking in on vulnerable people living alone. We reached out to our neighbours and came together from a safe distance to celebrate our front-line workers.
Here at Newcastle College and our University Centre, our students and our colleagues were no exception and mobilised quickly to offer support. Everyone wanted to play a part in helping others, whether it was the NHS, a local charity, or our own college community.
A number of teachers in our health and social care department returned to work in industry to offer support during the crisis and as local healthcare providers struggled with a shortage of resources, they collected vital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from our training facilities, so that they could be donated. Hundreds of items including aprons, gloves, clinical wipes and face masks were delivered to Allied Healthcare, Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care and the RVI hospital in Newcastle.
Many of our Higher Education students were also called upon to help support in the fight against Covid- 19, completing their degree studies while juggling their roles as key workers, providing valuable support to the NHS and looking after the elderly and the vulnerable.
In order to help our students to complete their studies successfully, we encouraged students to draw upon their extensive experience within the sector and applied our Recognition of Prior experiential Learning (RPeL) process, which enables them to gain HE credits for the skills and experience they’ve gained within industry and replaces specific modules of the course.
25% of our Health and Social Care students were able to benefit from RPeL, enabling them to focus on the vital work they were doing at a critical time without worrying about their outstanding assessments.
One student who benefitted from the service commented: “To be told that as a frontline worker I had met the criteria to finish Level 4 helped me immensely as I was working like a robot and when I was home from work I had nothing left to give.
“It was also very rewarding to be noticed as a frontline worker as at the time myself and colleagues felt forgotten and unworthy.”
Curriculum Leader Connor Herron added: “Never have we been prouder of our Higher Education students who demonstrated such commitment to their studies whilst working tirelessly to support our local health and care services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Rachelle Waugh, our Healthcare Practice programme leader, worked to support our key worker students through their studies through use of our RPeL process. Students were able to meet the programme learning outcomes whilst working on the frontline as our specification matched closely to the work they were undertaking within industry. We are so proud of them all!”
Cecilia Holmes, Head of Higher Education at Newcastle College University Centre concluded: “It has been fantastic to have the regulatory processes in place to recognise the contribution our students have made to the regional response to the Covid19 pandemic.
“We mapped the learning outcomes to their professional roles and were able to give them academic credit for their invaluable work. In my experience, never has the RPeL process been quite so appropriately used to recognise real work experience.”
This is just a small example of the community spirit on display at Newcastle College year-round and is typical of colleges across the country. It shows the important role that FE institutions play in our local communities outside of education and that we’re here not only to provide those vital skills and training, but also to make a real difference through meaningful social action.
We work hard to make a real difference to the lives of people and businesses in our local communities and as part of a national education group at NCG, we are lucky to have the resources and the support available to help us make an even bigger impact.