How Hopwood Hall College responded to Covid-19

Posted by on 8 Jul 2020

Image: How Hopwood Hall College responded to Covid-19

Tracey Wood remembers the date March 27, 2020 with a mixture of sadness and pride.

As the UK went into lockdown it was the date that Hopwood Hall College closed its door to face-to-face teaching and switched to an online learning model. With 3,000 students aged between 16-18, 3,000 adult learners and more than 300 apprentices it was a massive logistical operation.

Tracey Wood

Tracey, who is the college’s head of business development, recalls Friday March 27 like it was yesterday.

“There was a real sense of sadness as we had to end face-to-face teaching because of the rules on social distancing,” she said. “However we were very clear that we weren’t closing just moving online. The college never shut. At the very start, learner welfare was front and centre of everything we did.”

Tracey said the timing of the coronavirus pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time. “The March-June period is really critical in your last year in college when you’re about to graduate,” she said.

“We immediately set up a dedicated website and put the learning online. We also had a support team on hand available for anyone who was at home. It was vital that everyone had the resources they needed, which included distributing lap tops, study resources and food vouchers.”

Tracey said the key was recognising learners had different needs.

“Like a lot of organisations we’ve made use of virtual meeting platforms,” she said. “Counselling sessions moved to Zoom and telephone for example. We deliver a wide range of vocational programmes in engineering, construction, hair and beauty, animal care and catering and we had to adapt our lessons utilising our e- learning platform Its Learning.

“One thing we’ve had to consider is the mental health of our students and staff so we’ve had a student support team at Hopwood. We’ve expanded this.” Julia Heap, principal and CEO of Hopwood Hall College, kept staff reassured by sending out weekly updates on a Friday to keep everyone informed. 

The employer services team set up a weekly newsletter to all employers with updates of Hopwood responses, apprenticeship and skills updates. This has been well received by businesses.

“Because we were working from home it was very important to stay connected,” explained Tracey. “Virtual coffees have also helped, reconnecting with people you would usually have corridor / staff room conversations.”

Now a phased reopening of Hopwood Hall College is well underway ahead of the start of the new academic year in September.

“We’re still making plans,” she said. “Class sizes are going to change and I think there will be a mix of blended learning, with home learning and classroom learning.”

As well as looking after existing learners, the college also wanted to serve the wider community and create an online course offer, fully funded for all people regardless of age.

Over 1,000 people have completed an online course, which have ranged from 30 minutes to three hours in length. Many businesses accessed these to help support the transition to working remotely for example.

The subjects were designed to be completed at home and included courses in Microsoft Office, understanding autism and managing remote teams. “It was a really good way of staying connected with Hopwood,” said Tracey. “They were taster sessions that hopefully will lead to lasting relationships.

“We are also pleased to have supported businesses throughout the crisis by providing PPE made my our Technology Centre and also donating resources that they was in shortage of such as plaster.

“As Julia said, the college is committed to bringing out the best in our learners and businesses and these online courses can also help the wider community to reach their full potential.”

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