Post-pandemic education and opportunity

Last week hundreds of students received their A-Level and other higher level results. GCSE results are about to be released this week. It is always a period of mixed excitement and trepidation, waiting to hear what grades have been awarded. Every student should be proud of what has been achieved. The last two years have been very tough for every student, working from home and in virtual Zoom or Teams classrooms. Many have been expected to rely more on themselves and on their own resources than former generations and cohorts. This impact has been felt by everyone who took their exams this year.

No matter how good the technology or the teacher, the virtual classroom is not the same as the physical one. But that difference, in working in a remote working environment, building new friendships and sustaining current ones when not able to meet in person, are skills which will help students throughout their working life. This is the digital age and young people are a product of that. As with the workplace, it is to be hoped that the benefits of accessing learning in different ways can be harnessed so that it is a bedrock of learning for future generations too.

One of the key challenges for the pandemic was the availability of computer access for students, particularly when the libraries had to close. Nationwide more than 1.9million laptops and tablets were handed out since the start of the pandemic, ensuring poorer students across different ages had access to equipment they needed to learn. Digital accessibility is something which was highlighted during the pandemic and must be considered in the overall access to learning and opportunity as we go forward.

For students who are off to university, congratulations and good luck with the many preparations for that new student life. There is lots of advice available on managing finances and much more. There is a wealth of opportunity for young people looking for work or training. Currently youth unemployment locally is even lower than before the pandemic, with many companies offering apprenticeship schemes too. Apprenticeships are a route which balances on the job learning with a take home salary. Last year over 550 young adults commenced on apprenticeship courses, from intermediate through to higher education level.

Recently delivered projects such as the new-look Market Square in Dover, with nearly £2.5 million of Government funding, represent another improvement for our area. As we look to the future, a multi-million pound bid by Dover District Council for the Dover Beacon project aims to raise aspirations and increase opportunities further for our young people. The ambition is for a state-of-the-art campus for the technical college, improving skills, employment and earnings opportunities across Dover and Deal. With so much planned, now is an exciting time for us all by developing new skills and opportunities as we look forward to the future.

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