Policy passed at NUS Wales Conference 2021
Blended Learning in the Future
Following our Learner Panel Meetings with our class representatives and College Principals, students have told us that they are enjoying their remote learning; however they are missing their classmates and the college environment, such as our Salons, Restaurants and support in our Libraries.
Grŵp Llandrillo Menai Student Union would like to introduce blended learning in the future; a balance of online and face-to-face learning. Moving meetings and tutorials online would result in less travelling and less of an impact on our environment.
Our Student Union meetings have been working successfully online, with great participation across campuses and increased engagement between different campuses.
A balance of online and face-to-face learning would benefit students long-term and help towards reducing the impact on our environment.
What is the issue facing students?
Due to the current pandemic, students have adapted to online learning with face-to-face learning where possible due to government guidelines. Students have reported that they are enjoying online learning however for the future, they feel it’s important to have blended learning; online and face-to-face.
Why is this important to us as a movement?
As well as education, mental health is also one of NUS Wales’ main priorities.
What would the world look like if we solved it?
Students have stated that blended learning is important for their mental health and wellbeing and also for the environment.
With regards to mental health and wellbeing, it is important for students to be able to see their classmates/friends and engage where possible in the college environment.
With regards to the environment, a blended learning approach would reduce travelling costs and the impact on our environment.
When ILS students finish their ILS studies, they often progress to mainstream courses, but also in mainstream there may be other learners with ALN (Additional Learning Needs) who have not been through an ILS course. These other learners may not have had the benefit or experience of the additional courses or skills taught to ILS learners, such as how to manage relationships, parenting awareness, rights and responsibilities, healthy eating & living among many others. This is something which should be an essential right, and a key driver as part of equal opportunities, thus, we feel it should be written into the Welsh curriculum.
Why this is important:
When we think of FE/HE curriculum we often ask: “How can we assure that people are equipped with the necessary skills for the future?” The best way to ensure such a thing is to ensure that subjects that prepare those in FE/HE to cope in the real world are also made available.
For example, far too often students go into College and Uni with no idea how to cook even basic meals, resulting in too many takeaways, which in turn adds to the current physical/mental health crisis. Often, these same students would have no idea how to pay their rent, budget for food or other necessities, or even ironing their clothes.
We acknowledge that in general terms basic living skills are often taught to students through parenting. However, this is based on an assumption that our students and parental circumstances are similar. Of course, this is often not the case, and this fact should be considered for all learners.
Furthermore, many students with a disability or ALN may not be on a specialist/ILS course, but could benefit from training in these subjects; e.g. a learner with autism could study on a course alongside students without disabilities with a little extra help from the ALN department, but struggle and need extra assistance learning how to use an oven safely.
For this reason, we feel it's important that ILS subjects are made available across all courses in FE and undergraduate courses in HE, so that students and ALN students in mainstream can access those vital life skills ensuring that all students have the same opportunities.
Natspec [The Association of National Specialist Colleges] describe ILS subjects as enabling:
“... students to develop their knowledge of and skills in areas such as keeping safe, being healthy, looking after their own home, and dealing with problems. Students would also have the opportunity to take units of learning relating to aspects of the wider community, such as getting out and about and going places, getting on with other people, rights and responsibilities, and encountering experiences.”
What Wales would look like if we solved this:
Making the 15 core skills available to mainstream, as well as ILS in 6th form/FE/HE, would be a progressive development in this to support equality throughout Welsh Curriculum for post 16 education. Our call for this at Coleg Cambria is already working on a continuous improvement action plan led by our Inclusion Manager; this would be a key enabler for upskilling and training staff for mainstream as well as ILS.
Natspec’s 15 core areas used in example colleges:
- Communication in the Community
- Community Access
- Community Transport
- Cooking Skills
- Domestic Cleaning
- Healthy Eating
- Kitchen Safety
- Laundry Routines
- Managing Money
- Personal Awareness
- Personal Hygiene
- Safety in the Community
- Safety in the Home
- Social Awareness
- Social Skills
We think that these should also be made available for our 6th form, FE and HE students across Wales, as all our students at some point will need to deal with each of those areas; knowing how to use those skills is critical for success in life and employment.
By teaching these in college and/or uni, you would help students be better prepared for coping in the world at large. This will lead to a More Equal Wales.
Policy passed at NUS Wales Conference 2022
What is the issue facing students?
Wales is the only UK nation led by a Labour Government, and education in Wales is devolved. NUS Wales and the Welsh Government have enjoyed a positive relationship and have long worked together to win together.
But that’s no longer the case –the government has shown no appetite to work with us to #FixStudentHousing, with rent now taking up to 60% of the maximum maintenance loan for Welsh domiciled students.
On student mental health, the Minister has simply pushed the burden of delivering a student mental health strategy back on the sector.
And the Education Minister thinks that student and learner voice is not worthy of prioritisation.
This is why we can’t rely on always having a positive relationship with government in Wales. This is why “it’s ok here, we get what we want” simply isn’t true.
The Welsh Government frequently uses a lack of devolved powers in some areas –particularly around money - as an excuse not to act, and we do not challenge them.
This means that the effects of the Westminster government’s decisions are felt in Wales, and the UK Government effectively rules Wales by stealth–by controlling the money.
The Welsh Way used to be the gold standard; now we are stagnating. Nobody is coming to fix our problems for us. As the student movement in Wales, we need to hold our government to account and push them to be brave, bold, and to think beyond the current marketised system that we find ourselves in.
Why is this issue important to us as a movement?
We need to set out a vision for what is possible - The Welsh Way - and pressure our government to show what can be done. We need to show that there is an alternative to the marketised system which places little value on student wellbeing. We need the Welsh Government to openly admit that it does not have enough power over their finances or political autonomy to do this effectively.
Why shouldn’t we lead the way in Wales? We have a strong radical history; we need to push this government to wake up from its slumber and enact The Welsh Way.
The Welsh Government and Welsh institutions aren’t going to do this for us. We have to do this for ourselves and for the generations who come after us. If we don’t articulate a new Welsh Way, no-one will.
NUS can and should hold the space for our movement to come together and imagine what a post-market transformative education looks like. It should focus on the roots of the issues we face and bring students together in a united powerful movement to create radical change.
The new Commission (CTER) could have been an opportunity for radical changes topost-16education; an education system that works for all, not for a privileged few. What we got was tinkering at the edges, rather than grasping at the root. A missed opportunity to strengthen student voice in FE. A missed opportunity for the Welsh Government to truly be bold.
Education should be situated in our communities; and those communities should be rooted in justice and liberation.
What would the world look like if we solved it?
Not all students are guaranteed safety in their learning experience. This may be due to their race, sexuality, or general differences to societal standards. Education has a history of systemic oppression, which we as students should be actively taking down. Education should always be inclusive, so inclusivity should be a key pillar of our student movement.
In order to empower and protect minority students, we need to prevent, educate, and protect. It is important that we educate others on discrimination through programmes, that prevent discrimination from occurring such as taking advantage of the pastoral tutorial support in FE colleges and running anti-discrimination workshops and campaigns in HE Institutions.
We can protect minorities by making safe spaces for them to talk about their experiences and by supporting students to set up groups within colleges, that may not have the same number of societies for minority students. We could also empower community leaders and ambassadors for certain protected characteristics, for students to go to when they need support from somebody they can relate to as well as to help minority students have more of a voice in the changing of policy with in educational institutions.
It is also important to implement more thorough procedures on how to deal with discrimination in educational institutions, as well as harsher punishments for discrimination and to ensure the offenders are educated on the error of their ways.
This will be the focus of NUS Wales as it enters its 50th year in 2024; this is fundamental to the survival of the movement in Wales for the next 50 years.
A Welsh Government that has a bold vision and isn’t afraid to fight for a fairer settlement deal so that it can enact this vision in practice.
A critical mass of people who believe that students deserve better - we have the opportunity to demonstrate this in Wales.
Parity of esteem, value, opportunity, access, and investment across different forms of post-16 education - some of which we probably can’t even imagine yet!
In a world where all students are treated equally, where disadvantaged students are allowed to thrive, we would have better opportunities and an overall better society. Education is a force for change; by changing the culture and attitudes of students within education, particularly younger students in FE colleges, we will create a more tolerant society.
Institutions that recognise they have, and are, playing a part in colonialism, the destruction of the planet, and upholding classist hierarchies. They will have a willingness to rectify and amend the effects of their past, and commit to a future that allows all students to flourish.
A clear vision. A Welsh Way that puts all students and learners at its heart, recognises that factors such as wellbeing, mental health, finance, and housing are part of education, and dares to be bold.