West Lothian College — Supporting people, communities and businesses through the pandemic

On March 17, West Lothian College went into lockdown along with the rest of the country. However, although our campus buildings were closed, we never stopped working for our students, new applicants and the wider community.

Overnight, all courses moved to online remote delivery and our staff rose to the challenge of adapting to a new way of working so that students were supported through a crucial period of their learning.

College IT staff distributed 150 laptops to students who did not have a computer at home which meant that no student was unable to take part in online learning and complete their course.

Lecturers, assessors, trainers and support staff continued to work during the campus closure, helping students and applicants to achieve their qualifications and make the right decisions for their future. Classes and assessments took place online, we ran our first ever virtual open day to attract new students, and interviewed over 1,000 students in the first three months of lockdown.

Students experiencing anxiety and poor mental health during lockdown were able to access 24/7 mental health support from a group of expert trained professionals through a platform called Togetherall. They also had access to dedicated mental health counsellors employed by the college. These services continue to be available for students this year.

Staff and students worked hard to support their local communities during lockdown. The college donated PPE like face masks and disposable gloves to front-line services in West Lothian. Our campus was used as an NHS COVID19 testing station from April to August. Some of our staff even returned to the NHS as key workers to assist with the pressures brought on by coronavirus.

As we welcomed our students back after the summer break, we made sure our campus was as safe as possible for everyone. We used the lockdown to improve our facilities, for example by introducing new outdoor learning spaces, improving our digital infrastructure for online teaching, and adapting the campus to prevent the spread of Covid19. Examples of this include the purchase of Padcaster kits to enhance digital learning, upgrading digital learning screens around the campus and purchase of drones which will be used across various subjects in areas such as surveying for engineering students, which help enhance the skills and experience for students.

Courses this year are typically being delivered using a blended learning approach, with practical sessions and some classes taking place on campus, and other aspects being taught online. Over 200 laptops have been loaned to students who do not have the necessary technology devices to benefit from online learning.

When on campus, lecturers are moving some of their classes outdoors to deliver lessons. Being outdoors is an acknowledged as a way of mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. Childcare students, including secondary school pupils, are learning in our forest classroom, in the outdoor learning spaces in the college courtyard, and on the open grass in front of the campus. Professional Cookery students have been foraging in the woodland surrounding the campus and cooking outdoors. Sports students have been using college and local partnership facilities to undertake practical lessons outdoors, whilst other classes across the college have utilised outdoor space across the campus to provide learning and teaching in a safe environment.

West Lothian College remains the top choice for school leavers across the county and full time courses for this year are full. We are now creating a range of education and training opportunities for anyone affected by the crisis so that they can learn new skills, improve on existing skills, or even start a new career.

We will do our best for people in the towns and villages in West Lothian by inspiring and enabling success for all, supporting economic recovery and growth, and strengthening our communities.