Archived spotlight topics

This page details previously spotlighted topics of interest to support the Further Education sector in recovering from the immediate impacts of Covid.

Hybrid learning – top tips from the sector

The Covid pandemic has seen two years of disrupted learning and the Further Education and Training sector had to quickly adapt to new ways of working and learning, coping with constant change. Although the Covid restrictions have been lifted we are still facing change and disruption, having to deal with the impact of the past couple of years. However, this is also a good moment to look back and reflect on the lessons learnt during the pandemic and think what can be carried on in our practice.  

The ETF worked closely with a number of colleges during the pandemic to explore remote and hybrid learning, including  how to optimise learning activities for both sets of learners: attending remotely or who are physically in the classroom or workshop.  

Why not start with some top tips from North Hertfordshire College on best practices when using hybrid learning? In their project, they explored the practical considerations when teaching hybrid or remotely, from equipment to cohort size, as well as various methods to do so. 

In the conversations we have with practitioners, we hear that most feel more confident using digital technologies in their teaching and this is something they will be using post Covid. Explore key learning from Loughborough College who looked at expanding their staff’s digital skills and pedagogies and Weymouth College who conducted a study on improving practitioners’ digital skills to ensure classes are inclusive, with a focus on Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) and vocational learning. Step2Skills focused on engaging learners and maintaining good mental health when delivering remotely and in hybrid settings, looking in particular at ‘flipped learning’ and the use of Google Classrooms.

Case studies 

North Hertfordshire College 

Loughborough College 

Weymouth College  

Step2Skills 

Are your learners ready for the exam season?

In a previous spotlight we looked at mental health and wellbeing and the impact Covid –19 has had on us all. Linked closely to this is the heightened anxiety around exams.

Feedback from the sector continues to show that the impact of Covid has led to a heightened level of anxiety around exams and assessments.

Many students don’t have any experience of sitting formal exams in an educational setting and might feel under additional pressure from the loss of learning cause by the frequent disruptions brought on by the pandemic. Practical advise on how to deal with stress and anxiety needs to be supported by learning strategies.

Register to attend our upcoming Focus on exams webinars on:

Share this Ofqual blog and guide with your learners for some practical tips on managing stress and anxiety around exams.  

Helping learners to absorb and recall information is a vital part of preparing them for exams. This article sets out a number of techniques to aid sticky learning.  

Confidence and motivation also play a huge part in learners’ ability to be ready to sit a formal exam. Look at these tips on how to support your students with becoming confident and motivated independent learners, and SET members can read this article full of practical ideas on how to build confidence through positive verbal feedback.

Further resources:

Webinars:

Blog:

Guidance:

Publications:

Assessment course:

Guidance: DfE – Arrangements for exams and non-exam assessments for students taking qualifications in summer 2022

Guidance: DfE – Letter to heads about Advance Information on GCSE, AS and A level exams

Are you ready for the exam season?

The cancellation of many exams in 2020 and 2021, has had a complex impact on educational institutions and learners. Organisations need to prepare themselves to set up the exams this year and also need to support their learners who are understandably anxious, anxiety which is likely to be heightened by the loss of learning.  

In the first of a two-part series, this spotlight provides some practical guidance to help prepare yourself, your learners and your organization for the next exam season. In a couple of weeks’ time, we will look more closely at supporting learners deal with exam anxiety.  

Start with these top tips for managing exam anxiety and supporting learners through exams from the Education and Training Foundation National Head for Maths, Julie Baxter.  

Learn from some practitioner research undertaken by your colleagues. Petroc College found that to improve outcomes, they not only had to address gaps in learner knowledge, but also a lack of motivation and organization, Tameside looked at supporting students by fostering a positive mindset, and Sheffield College  developed a scheme of work using ‘mindset for learning’ activities to support building confidence, resilience and improve achievements for the resit of GCSE English and Functional Skills.  

For practical advice on exam arrangements look at this DfE guidance and this recent letter to heads. 

Further resources:

Publication: EdTech: Creating inclusive content: Principles

Research: Resit Resilience – The Sheffield College

Research: Can the Improvement of Systems and Practice Lead to Improved Outcomes for Learners? – Petroc College

Guidance: DfE – Arrangements for exams and non-exam assessments for students taking qualifications in summer 2022

Guidance: DfE – Letter to heads about Advance Information on GCSE, AS and A level exams

Essential Digital Skills – making it inclusive

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the need for digital skills and confidence to be able to access many essential aspects of life; friends and family, shopping and entertainment, work and learning. As a teacher or trainer who has spent the best part of two years through various lockdowns trying to teach in an online or hybrid environment you will probably be painfully familiar with this fact and its consequences, and the additional challenges faced in making your content inclusive whilst adjusting to new ways of teaching.

Why not start with these two short training modules on the principles of good practice for creating content that meets the needs of learners with a disability or learning disadvantage and the practice of creating resources that work for all learners.   

Alternatively, watch this this webinar to understand both the benefits and the barriers of webinar-based lessons. The tools and platforms you have available may put constraints on how inclusive your webinar can be, but this session will explore some of the common issues and suggest ways to minimise their impact.

This short training module will help you explore approaches to improving the elements of an organisation’s digital technology strategy, particularly those that relate to accessibility and its significance for bringing about change in teaching and learning.

Finally, if you need to respond to last minute changes you might find the tips from this webinar on adapting quickly to deliver online, useful.

Further resources:

Training: EdTech: Creating inclusive content: Principles

Training: EdTech: Creating inclusive content: Practice

Training: EdTech: Influencing and promoting policy for equitable access

Webinar: Making webinars more inclusive

Webinar: Adapting content quickly to deliver online

Motivating others

In recent weeks we have highlighted some strategies for motivating yourself and motivating learners. In the last of this mini-series on motivation, we examine how mentoring and coaching can help to motivate colleagues.

The benefits of mentoring and coaching for are widely reported and include: increased wellbeing, increased job satisfaction and increased confidence.

During the pandemic, ensuring teachers and trainers have access to tailored and skilled mentoring and coaching support has become even more important.

For the past 18 months ETF have been offering a range of free training programmes for mentors and coaches who are working with teachers and trainers to develop their teaching, learning and assessment strategies. The mentors and coaches participating in these programmes have invested time in supporting their colleagues to deliver high-quality online, blended and hybrid learning experiences. Their skills in mentoring and coaching have helped to encourage and inspire their colleagues to use new digital tools in effective and meaningful ways with learners.

The mentees and coachees who have been supported told us they feel more confident, more skilled and more motivated in their teaching practice.

If you are short of time, sign up for these upcoming hour long webinars. Choose the right group for you (leader, mentor or mentee), and join a conversation offering practical advice on how to make the most of mentoring.

Motivating your learners

We hope the last spotlight on motivating yourself was helpful.

In our survey you said that you are struggling with:

“Lack of enthusiasm from learners and poor attendance”

“Motivating learner progression”

“Learner attendance and retention”.

Here are some resources to help you motivate your learners and keep them engaged with their learning.

This handbook designed in conjunction with the ETF Centres for Excellence in Maths explores the topic of what motivation is, and how we can better nurture it in our classes. Further to this, Eddie Playfair, Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) focuses on low motivation in maths learners specifically in this blog on Motivation and Engagement.

Teaching expert and best-selling author Geoff Petty discusses both the importance of motivating learners, and some strategies to do so in this free-to-watch webinar.

We caught up with Dr. Paul Tully, Professionalism Manager at the ETF, to collate 5 suggestions on how your planning, delivery and time with learners can increase their levels of confidence and engagement in learning at a time of year when levels of nervousness can be high and motivation, low.

Keeping your learners engaged when teaching remotely comes with its own challenges. In response to the Covid pandemic, the Department for Education have put together guidance on keeping pupils motivated and engaged when working remotely.

Further resources:

Motivating yourself

At a time of year when days are short and motivation can be hard to find, we have collated a collection of resources to help you, and your learners, find some much needed motivation to start off 2022. You might only have time to explore these 4 Tips for finding self-motivation, or you might want to think about your career progression and achieving your professional potential.

If you are looking for some inspiration on how to delivery even better teaching and learning, Geoff Petty outlines ‘Five steps to improved teaching’ in this blog: sometimes, having some new ideas can provide a spark of creativity.

With many of us making promises for the New Year, this blog from SET explores the reality of fantasising about achieving goals, and why it is we, despite our intentions, fail to achieve such goals.

Come back in a couple of weeks to continue with this theme and read about motivating your learners.

Further resources:

Promoting positive behaviour

Our efforts as educators must go beyond literacy and maths and the range of vocational courses our learners attend. We need to include creating the right environment which will allow learners to build the social, emotional, and behavioural skills they will need to fully access and participate in learning and make the most of their potential and future opportunities. 

Amid the pandemic, we know that our learners have experienced so much. The true extent of the collective ‘trauma’ has become revealed with many learners ‘outing’ this trauma through their behaviour from low level disturbance in the classroom, to immature and disruptive behaviour causing potential safeguarding concerns. 

We can’t unlock students’ potential unless we also address the needs they bring with them to the learning environment each day.  

This spotlight topic provides some practical resources for you to use to support with creating an environment that is emotionally nurturing, something which is fundamental to learner success. 

Resources include a webinarblog, and short publications covering a restorative approachbehaviour intervention and de-escalation strategies, as well as top tips on creating a positive culture and managing behaviour and creating a safe space when teaching online.

Further resources:

Mental health and wellbeing

The FE workforce continues to adapt to ensure that our learners can access their studies in these continually uncertain times. But there is no doubt that the amount of change and uncertainty brought about by Covid-19 is taking a toll on both staff and learners. 

In our webinar Mental health and Wellbeing in FE: the new landscape1, our Centre for Excellence in SEND at Weston College highlights that in a survey by Young Minds 2020, 80% of young people said that Covid-19 had made their mental health worse. And even more worryingly, 25% of young people who tried to access mental health services failed to receive any support. Further, the AoC report on mental health and colleges2 reported that 94% of colleges reported having students who had attempted suicide.

Similarly, Covid-19 has impacted on staff wellbeing. In a forthcoming report on the wellbeing of the FE workforce during Covid-19 by University of Portsmouth due to be released in January 2022, they report a marked increase from pre pandemic responses to the statement, ‘I am thinking about myself in a positive way.’ 

So, what can we do to help? Ensuring that the mental health and emotional wellbeing of both staff and learners is supported from the moment they enter our sector and throughout their time with us is a priority. There are some excellent examples across the sector including Bridgend College, Winners of the 2021 AoC Beacon Award for mental health and wellbeing3, and Weston College’s whole organisational approach to supporting mental health4

1 Mental health and Wellbeing in FEE, webinar
2 Mental health: 94% of colleges report suicide attempts, 28 Jan 2021 tes.com
3 Leading the way for mental health and wellbeing, Bridgend College
4 Emotional recovery language in FE – what’s yours?, SET

Further resources:


Additional support for Further Education and Training recovery

The Education and Training Foundation is highlighting resources for leaders, managers and practitioners in the Further Education and Training sector. This includes online CPD, digital teaching support, webinars, and journals. Please visit the main Futher Education and Training recovery page to see the help that is available.


If you require further information about this project please contact anca.egan@etfoundation.co.uk

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