Lancaster & Morecambe College Continues to Serve its Community During Lockdown - Wes Johnson
As Lancaster & Morecambe’s College we can trace our roots right back to 1824, we are proud to be shaped by our employers to the benefit of all members of our community. Our commitment to our community is unwavering, even in these unprecedented times our college gates remain open to the most vulnerable, our teaching staff continue to deliver learning online and our liaison with employers occurs daily. We believe the college will be a key vehicle to facilitate recovery when we get through this difficult period, as we will.
Over the past 200 years it’s certain that technical education in the district has faced many challenges. However, even as a Principal with over 20 years’ experience in the sector, COVID-19 as a pandemic has posed a whole new set of challenges for me, my senior team and the wider organisation, none of which was ever taught on the Principal’s training course!
Our top priority will always be to support the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students, the vast majority of our 400 staff are now working from home, delivering learning to our students through online means. However, we recognise how important college is to many of our students in terms of both safety and structure. We therefore took the decision not to close the campus, to ensure our most vulnerable learners had access to a place of safety and sanctuary should they require it. We have a small number of staff on campus each day to facilitate this, indeed as I prepare this piece I am in my office at college, as I undertake my day this week on the ‘onsite rota’.
To benefit our local employers and wider community we have developed a suite of free distance learning courses over the past two years, enrolments to these courses have seen a significant uptake in the past few weeks. Through our European funded projects we are able to offer opportunities for employees to develop their leadership, management and digital skills using a range of digital methods. Our college website (www.lmc.ac.uk) has more details of this fully online provision which remains ‘live’ during lockdown.
As a parent of a year 11 school pupil myself I am acutely aware of the impact that the current situation has had on GCSE’s with the move to teacher assessment. At this crucial time in young people’s lives this has generated significant uncertainty in my own household, which must be replicated in households across the district. At this time of year young people would normally be investigating their options, such as sixth form, college or an apprenticeship. As a college we are committed to ensuring all new applicants have access to clear information and advice. Application forms can be submitted through our website and we have recently purchased 50 new college mobile phones to facilitate our staff in undertaking telephone interviews with school leavers every week.
Many of our apprentices are currently furloughed, we have supported them and their employers to navigate this difficult time whilst they continue with their studies. However, we know that apprenticeships will be incredibly important to our local economy through and beyond the recovery phase. We welcome new applications to apprenticeships, whilst the employer matching process may take a little longer at this time, we want to ensure that we prepare future apprentices to be employment ready, to benefit local businesses at the earliest opportunity.
Finally, in times of adversity, the best of human nature can be seen. I am really proud that volunteer college staff are currently using the catering resources on campus to produce over 800 ready meals per week to support the most vulnerable in our community, in partnership with local food suppliers and the Eggcup Project.