A recent survey by the Association of Colleges (AOC) has found that a ‘staggering’ number of college students (16-to-18-year-olds) are behind on their learning between one and four months. This is in comparison to the ‘normal expectations’ of where colleges would expect students to be at this point in the academic year.

The research also found that 69% of adults are also falling behind.

The pandemic has caused extreme changes for many organisations, from lockdown restrictions causing closures to others forced to make redundancies and place many if not all staff on furlough.

Those students on practical courses – construction, motor vehicle, hair and beauty and engineering have struggled the most, due to the difficult nature of trying to replace practical delivery with online learning.

The AOC research followed a survey of 80 colleges across England, with an aim to ‘paint a picture’ of the impact on colleges COVID-19 has had and provide evidence that without significant investment, this group of students may become a ‘lost generation’.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of AOC admitted the results were ‘hardly surprising’ and ‘time is running out’ to avoid a crisis.

Recommendations from AOC include additional funding for an extra year of study for students leaving college should they require it, estimated to cost around £80 million. There was also a recommendation to remove the 17.5% fall in funding for 18-year-olds compared to the rate offered for 16 to 17-year-olds, as well as providing support for those most disadvantaged through a student premium.

Almost 71% of colleges surveyed said they have been required to provide additional tuition over and above the 16 to 19 tuition fund provided by the government, with many teachers continuing to provide resources and learning throughout Easter to make up for the loss of learning.

However, this fund is only for those small groups of students who failed to achieve a grade 4 in GCSE English and maths, meaning colleges are finding it hard to meet the range of larger groups of students across the provision who require the additional help.

Well-being and poor mental health was also cited by the survey, with depression, suicidal thoughts, lack of motivation and sleeo pproblems amongst some of the issues reported. For adults in continuous learning, the challeneges of juggling learning with home education of their own children and the lack of flexibilities from their own employers was noted.

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