College teacher: Students and teachers 'lose trust' over government's Covid response

Emilia Boulton, a trainee teacher at Newham College

Emilia Boulton, a trainee teacher at Newham College, said students and teachers have "lost trust" over the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. - Credit: Emilia Boulton

A trainee teacher at Newham College has hit out at the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming students and teachers have "lost trust" in the system.

Emilia Boulton, from the school of education and communities at the University of East London (UEL), felt teachers had been "at the mercy of policy makers" and morale had been affected.

She said: “The government has let us down and students and teachers have lost trust that needs to be found again."

Schools and colleges were closed between January and late March in line with the national lockdown.

Emilia said teaching online had presented challenges and revealed her frustration with digital poverty, with some students not having access to laptops.

"Although the government did issue devices, it isn’t as simple as just mailing them to the students.

"With hardly any warning or time to organise the logistics, valuable teaching and learning time has been lost.”

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She praised the college for its "constant" communication and contingency planning in support of staff.

But Emilia hoped the pandemic had forced the government to consider investing more in further education, which she described as a "neglected sector".

"If we look at core skills, this is a space where these skills need to be addressed," she said.

"The students need to be made more employable and become more confident within themselves.

"If anything, this pandemic has brought to light the clear disparities between the various sectors.

"This sector needs more support and should not be seen as a last resort – it is a space for potential.”

Alexander Cazaly, a trainee teacher at NewVIc College

Alexander Cazaly, a trainee teacher at NewVIc College. - Credit: Alexander Cazaly

Alexander Cazaly, a trainee teacher at NewVIc College who is on the same course at UEL, felt learning experiences during lockdown need to be considered for the future.

He said: "I think we have had to re-adapt and we will need to continue to do that.

"Simple standardisation is just not going to work, especially if you aren’t teaching affluent students.

"Many of my students had to work on their phones and had to find a way to complete a task or presentation because they do not have laptops."

For him, teaching online does not give the same level of job satisfaction as in person.

"This experience has been stressful in a whole new way; a sense of ‘lost learning’ and constantly having to adapt to your situation.

"I think realistically we need to learn from this experience, otherwise there is no point moving forward."

A third UEL trainee teacher, Sumandip Dhesi, said she understood why students were "disengaged" when learning online.

Sumandip, who is teaching art and design at a college in Chelsea, added: “In a way this pandemic has taught teachers and students to become more resilient.

Sumandip Dhesi 

Sumandip Dhesi said she understood why students were "disengaged" when learning online. - Credit: Sumandip Dhesi 

"It has put us in a sink or swim situation and, although teachers have been driven to make a success of it all, it has still taken its toll.

"Many of my colleagues and peers feel burnt out and agree that our teaching community is what has kept them all going."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We recognise that throughout the pandemic, teachers and staff across the further education sector have gone above and beyond to support students. 

“We extended the Get Help with Technology programme in January to support 16- to 19-year-olds to access education remotely, which forms part of a £400 million investment to help children and young people continue their education at home and access online social care services.  

“As of April 8, 83,454 devices and 1,861 routers have been delivered or dispatched to further education providers.

"Further education providers can also access connectivity support for financially disadvantaged students through the mobile network operator free data offer.”