From education to employment

Working with Welsh Government colleagues to reopen Gower College Swnasea at the beginning of September

We have now received the final part of the Welsh Government’s guidance that will allow the College to reopen at the beginning of September. 

Even though this guidance has been delayed, we have been working with Welsh Government colleagues throughout the summer and I am now pleased to be able to share our plans for September.

However, I do need to remind everyone of the College’s two key priorities as our plans are based on what we believe are the best means of achieving both of these.

Priority one

Our first priority is the health and safety of our students, staff and visitors. We will ensure that we manage the contact between individuals – in line with the latest guidance – so we reduce any risks of transmission and, in doing so, keep as many students in College at any point in time.

Priority two

Our second priority is to provide the highest quality of teaching and learning to ensure our students achieve the best grades possible and to secure the best opportunities for progression onto top universities, employment, an apprenticeship, or onto a higher level course in the College.

To meet both of these priorities, we will closely follow Welsh Government guidance which says that:

  • Students studying full time courses will be managed in their individual course contact groups (bubbles). However, this will not apply to ESOL students where we will follow social distancing guidelines, and we will need a slightly different approach for A Level students, which I refer to later on in this update.
  • Students taking part time courses including community learning, apprenticeships and employability programmes will also follow social distance guidelines.

For full time courses this will mean that we will need two separate plans.

Plan A which is our preferred plan, and the one that we will start the term with, is based on face to face delivery in the classroom (we estimate an average of four days per week in College) supplemented by some online teaching in areas such as the Welsh Baccalaureate and GCSE resits.

Plan B is then a more blended approach with less face to face delivery and more online teaching – and is the model that we used from March through to June, and which was well received by both parents and students.

Why have two plans? 

That is because we are thinking ahead and planning in advance in the event of either an individual class (contact group), or the whole College having to return to some form of lockdown in the future. 

Having two plans means that if we need to change the methods of delivery, then we can do so effortlessly and continue switching back and forth as needed.

A Levels

I will now outline how we intend delivering A Levels – a plan which has been shared and agreed with Public Health Wales. 

Many schools are treating A Levels as a single contact group but this runs a real risk of possibly having to ask all students to self-isolate if for example, one student unfortunately tests positive for the virus. 

At the College, we believe that a better approach is to break the A Level programmes into different subject contact groups which reduces the unnecessary risk of students coming into contact with those studying other subjects. 

Therefore, we will timetable different subjects on different days so, A Level Chemistry may be on a Monday, A Level Physics on a Tuesday etc.

Understandably it doesn’t remove the risk completely, but it will mean that students only come into contact with the other students in their class – and we can reduce the risk even further by allocating students to specific desks.

Whilst this is a new approach for us, it is not uncommon in other institutions and many lecturers believe this brings real advantages in terms of having greater opportunities to reinforce the teaching. 

Also, it does not mean that all of the work for a particular subject is focussed on one day. For instance, coursework and homework will be set throughout the week and tutorials arranged on other days in addition to online delivery.

Further details will be released later this week, but all full time courses will start with an induction programme during the week beginning Tuesday 1 September.

Although for the first week only, students will be brought in for one day to help them become familiar with both the College and staff so we can explain what a typical day will look like and the measures we have put in place to keep everyone safe.

At the same time we need to ensure all students have the appropriate digital equipment and are able to access the online resources that will be available.

We have been working hard over the last couple of months to formulate these plans and approaches and I do hope you understand the rationale behind them.

Mark Jones, Principal, GOwer College, Swansea

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