Itec Skills awarded the ‘Investors in Families Lockdown Award’, a prestigious award recognising the support and care provided throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Written by Melanie Thomas, Senior Quality Manager.

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed our day-to-day lives, and that’s no different for our learners. With teaching moved online, and assessments cancelled or delayed, learners were faced with unprecedented disruption and challenges. As a result of such fundamental changes, supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our learners has become a top priority.

We mobilised quickly to respond to the challenges of Covid-19, working innovatively to ensure the continued support of learners’ progress and wellbeing. The safety and wellbeing of learners and staff was the first consideration in all decision-making. Priority was given to the provision of additional support for vulnerable learners. For example, those experiencing mental health issues, at risk of disengagement, and those with additional learning needs and caring responsibilities. The additional support included regular ‘keep in touch’ strategies, safeguarding referrals and continued access to online counselling and other services.

“I receive the best support from my counsellor at Itec. I get weekly phone calls to check on my progress” – Traineeship Learner

Before the pandemic, our staff had always ensured that they consider the whole family when engaging with young people. However, this element has demonstrably proved fundamental to maintaining relationships with not only young people, but learners of all ages, on all programmes over lockdown.

We engaged with our learners’ families to provide basic provisions and wellbeing support, offering information on safeguarding, and supporting families during times of financial instability.  Providing ICT equipment, wellbeing support, involving parents/carers/family in the learning process, adapting the learning methods and approaches to support individual learning requirements and ongoing communication, has been crucial for reaching and engaging learners throughout the pandemic.

When questioned, 90% of learners felt they were able to be more independent in their learning now that digital solutions are in place for their course.

I’m loving that I’m able to do something now, rather than being sat at home doing nothing– Traineeship Learner

We are aware that every family has its own unique set of challenges. For some learners, challenges in focus, concentration, energy levels, work and family commitments, lack of digital resources or skillset, has made online learning a cause of anxiety. Providing flexibility, and constant communication and support from practitioners (including engaging with parents/carers as appropriate) was hugely appreciated, particularly for those vulnerable learners (including those on the spectrum who struggle with dealing with change, and learners with disabilities).

In recognition of our commitment to provide the best possible support and care to our learners during the lockdown, we are extremely proud to announce that we have recently been awarded the Investors in Family Lockdown Award, the first WBL provider, and only the 2nd non-school setting to receive the award in Wales.

“It is clear that they (Itec Skills) have worked extremely hard and have had to adapt under the trickiest of times. I also wanted to highlight how it is clear that this has been led from the top, the changes and adoptions that you have made have had a huge impact to your learners, their families and their community” – Lynsey Woodhouse, Director of Investors in Families