After what has been a very challenging academic year, Gower College Swansea is now gearing up for the return of students from 1 September.
Work has been ongoing throughout the summer to adapt the campus buildings in light of Covid-19 and things will look very different when learners return for their inductions.
“We have two, very clear priorities for the next term and beyond,” explains Principal Mark Jones.
“First and foremost is the health and safety of our students, staff and visitors. Anyone walking into a College building now, although it is still a very welcoming environment of course, will immediately see the changes we have made to ensure that social distancing and enhanced hygiene measures are observed.
“Secondly, we want to continue providing the highest quality of teaching and learning and to offer our students the support they need to pursue the progression pathway of their choice, whether that is a top university, a job, an apprenticeship, another course within the College, or employability support – this is what we call the Gower College Swansea Guarantee.”
Initially, students studying full time courses will be managed in their individual course contact groups, or ‘bubbles’. Students on part time courses - which are due to resume soon - apprenticeships and employability programmes will follow social distancing guidelines.
However, the College is taking nothing for granted and has two separate, robust plans in place should circumstances change.
Plan A is that full time students will start the term with mostly face to face lectures in the classroom, which equates to around four days a week spent at the College. This will be supplemented by some online teaching in areas such as the Welsh Baccalaureate and GCSE resits.
If the official Welsh Government guidance changes later in the year, then Plan B would be implemented. This takes a more blended approach to teaching and learning, with less face to face delivery and more online teaching. This is the model that the College used from March through to June, and which was well received by both parents and students.
“Having two plans in place means that we can be confident that, if we do need to change our methods of delivery, we can do so effortlessly and continue switching back and forth as needed with the minimum of disruption to students,” says Mark.
Face to face teaching and learning was suspended at the College on 20 March, as the country went into lockdown, and all subsequent delivery was moved online. Despite the challenges this inevitably raised, Mark is extremely proud of how everyone adapted to unprecedented situation.
“Like everyone else, we’ve had to be resilient and flexible every step of the way,” he adds. “But often when faced with a crisis, you will see that there are hidden opportunities too, and the way that our staff and students have embraced the virtual learning world has been fantastic. We have also continued to invest over £1m every year in our IT infrastructure and are confident that we can adapt, whatever the next year brings.”
Despite the uncertainty of 2020, the College recently celebrated its strongest set of exam results. At A Level, the pass rate at grades of A*-C was 93% and at grades A*-A the pass rate was 45%. Across the broad range of vocational courses, 64% of students achieved at least one Distinction.
That means that around 1000 students can now progress to university in September, including 11 who have been accepted by Oxford and Cambridge universities.