Around Christmas last year we were hearing reports of an outbreak of a new disease that was affecting China, which seemed a world away and had little significance on our daily lives. This situation quickly changed, when the country had to enter lockdown in March. At a time of great uncertainty where everything seemed to be ever–changing, it is easy to understand why so many people began to feel uneasy about the future. Covid–19 has brought about disruption to every part of our lives and is still presenting many challenges.
With the closure of schools once the country went into lockdown, much was asked about how those in years 9 and 11 would be affected, especially as they were due to undertake their GCSE or A Level exams. The government announced that all students would not take any exams and would be provided with estimated grades. There was an initial outcry from many people including teachers, parents and unsurprisingly the students themselves. What about all the hard work they were putting into their studies? What about all the preparations they were doing for their exams? Surely, this all seems unfair.
We saw a lot in the news saying that we could expect many students to defer for a year, to allow them to take their exams when it was again possible.
On the face of it, students are facing a terrible year, but there could be a real opportunity for them to gain from the Covid–19 situation. While deferring a year may seem a very sensible thing to do, the pursuits they would normally undertake such as going travelling will not be possible. It is also going to be difficult to work; we are seeing rises in unemployment, especially in sectors where students would be most likely to gain work.
Make the most of the year, why not start your university course? Yes, it will be different but again there are advantages. Nearly all universities will be providing blended learning, a mixture of online teaching and some face to face delivery. The benefit of having online lectures is that they will be recorded and therefore you can access them when you want, at a time to suit you and not on the days and times given in your university timetable.
With increased provision online many students will now find it easier to access support including their tutors and the many services universities provide, all from the comfort of home. For many staying at home it means they won’t have to pay for student accommodation, creating savings that can be used in subsequent years.
There is even a chance to change your chosen university. Although students will have selected their firm and insurance universities via UCAS there is now an option to self-select to go into clearing. For those students that have gained better expected grades or would like to try and get into another university there is probably a higher chance of being successful this year than any other. Universities are likely to be receptive to students approaching them and will take into account the current situation when deciding whether to give you entry or not.
Hopefully, by the time a student reaches year 2, life will have returned to something more recognisable. They will be able to pick up the full gamut of student life, benefitting from having built the foundations of a good degree in year 1.
Ian Maude, Head of Apprenticeships, Leeds Beckett University