Economy Minister Diane Dodds has commended Northern Ireland’s further education (FE) colleges for the action they have taken to maintain essential services and support learners during the Covid-19 crisis.
All six colleges have rapidly introduced virtual learning so that learners, including apprentices, can continue their studies, and more than three-quarters of learners are now engaging in remote learning.
The Minister said: “I am immensely proud of the way in which the further education sector has stepped up to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 emergency. The speed at which the six FE colleges have moved to provide remote learning clearly displays high levels of commitment, leadership, agility, innovation and resourcefulness, by a well-skilled and experienced workforce.
“There have been around 50,000 online engagements with students, and learning continues in subject areas as diverse as software development, engineering, hair and beauty, plumbing and languages.”
Colleges have also taken action to ensure pastoral support continues to be delivered to those who need it, while working to maximise access to remote learning for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Minister continued: “Our colleges cater for a broad range of learners, some of whom may have limited or no access to a computer or broadband. College staff are doing all possible to help these learners overcome this barrier to education and going the extra mile, where they can, to ensure these learners do not miss out.
‘’From technical support to get set up with remote learning, to assistance with financial hardship, through to access to pastoral care and advice on physical and mental wellbeing, the colleges are providing invaluable services during this time.
“However I do understand that this rapid move to the implementation of virtual learning is not without challenges, not just for colleges, but particularly for our students. There remain some issues which colleges are working together to address.”
Encouraging students to continue with their studies, the Minister said: “I would ask all students to continue to engage with their course work and personal tutor and follow their advice.
“Please work with your college to ensure you have all assessments up to date so that you can receive the results you deserve.”
Students who have any questions or concerns should contact their personal tutor for further help or use the college contact email.
The Minister concluded: “Our further education colleges play a crucial and significant role in the success of Northern Ireland. Their response to the pandemic, ensuring that learners can continue their studies and providing crucial support networks to make that possible, demonstrates their commitment to the people who study with them. I commend and thank all the staff for their efforts in adapting to the challenges posed by Covid-19.”