Wesleyan, the specialist financial services provider for doctors, dentists, teachers and lawyers, has announced a significant support package for its customers, many of whom are dealing with the daily impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Customers will be given free access to a 24/7 healthcare and wellbeing support hub called ‘Wesleyan Wellbeing’.This will be available to all Wesleyan members and customers and include a personalised health and wellbeing assessment, online psychological triage assessment and wellbeing calls with a clinical consultant if required.

In addition, the Wesleyan Foundation has also gifted over £100,000 to multiple charities and organisations supporting the mental health needs of key workers. This includes NHS Practitioner Health, Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, Dental Health Support Programme and the Heart of England Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Resilience Fund. Funding will also be made available for teachers’ classroom materials to support the ongoing education of key workers’ children during school closures.

In addition the Wesleyan Group will support its customers in the following ways:

  • Protection policy customers – Offering payment breaks or spreading payments over an extended period for any customers suffering financial hardship.
  • Front Line student doctors support – An online hub ‘The Next Step’ provides students entering the frontline early with support and guidance. Many articles and blogs have been created by young doctors offering peer-to-peer advice.
  • Travel and Motor insurance – 30% discount on travel policies for new and existing customers and flexibility on front-line key workers vehicle use*
  • Covid-hub dedicated website – A dedicated site providing customers with all the updates, guidance and support they may need during the pandemic. This will include articles, videos and online seminars aimed at helping customers during the pandemic.
  • Continued personal advice – Continuing to provide access to Wesleyan’s Financial Services national network of Financial Advisers to help customers manage their financial plans. Customers can continue to receive financial advice over the phone and through virtual video calls at a time that suits them.

Practice Plan Group (Part of the Wesleyan Group):

  • Membership fees -During April and May, Practice Plan will be giving back half of their membership admin fee to dental customers. Practice Plan have also launched an online hub to provide advice and guidance to dentists and the management of their practices.

Mario Mazzocchi, Wesleyan Chief Executive said:

“Many of our customers are involved directly in dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and we want to show our absolute support and loyalty to them at this difficult time. That is why we have put together this package of support to, not only protect their financial wellbeing, but also their physical and mental health.

“We have heard from many people across the medical profession who tell us of the unbearable pressures that this pandemic is causing. We hope that the support we can offer will help to ease some of the pressures brought on by COVID-19.” 

Prof Pali Hungin, Wesleyan Advisory Board member and former President of the British Medical Association, said:

“The impact of dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak will have a long-lasting effect on many people in the health service, and other key workers, who are working in such an intense and pressured environment. The support offered by Wesleyan could provide a valuable life-line for some colleagues to help them process what they are going through.”

For more information visit http://www.covid19.wesleyan.co.uk

*All front-line key workers vehicles will be covered on their current policy under business use, even if they do not have it specified on their existing policy. Vehicles can also now be used for voluntary purposes such as delivering essential PPE for the NHS.

Capita signs teachers’ pension contract extension with Department for Education

Capita plc (Capita) announces today that it has secured a contract extension to continue the administration of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme for the Department for Education. The extension, which is due to start on 1 October 2021, is worth £60m over four years.

Capita will continue to deliver the end-to-end administration of the UK Government Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) for all members in England and Wales.

In addition to the core administration process, the contract covers multiple services, including: all stakeholder, member and employer engagement; customer contact and digital solutions; data analytics; and change management and innovation.

Capita will continue to deliver a fully integrated administration service for more than 2 million TPS members. This includes the collection of contributions from over 11,200 employers, and the calculation and payment of pensions to more than 700,000 pensioners and beneficiaries. Capita will also manage the schemes for both deferred and active members, totalling a further 1.3 million people.

Capita has been the provider of the TPS, one of the largest public sector pension schemes in the UK, for more than 20 years. A seven-year extension was signed with the Department for Education in 2011, followed by an additional three-year extension.

The TPS is administered from Darlington by Capita’s Employee Benefits business, which forms part of the company’s People Solutions division. The business delivers services including consulting, expertise and administration to the pensions of more than 4.8 million members, from over 500 schemes, on behalf of 350 clients in the UK and Ireland. 

Chantal Free, Executive Officer for Capita’s People Solutions division, said: “We are very proud of our partnership with the Department for Education and the Teachers’ Pension Scheme team. I am delighted that the Department chose to extend our contract for four more years.”

Free curriculum server for schools to keep staff safe and ease impact of Coronavirus

Schools struggling with staff working from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, while their IT systems remain on site, are being offered a free lifeline from a UK IT company.

CloudHappi, which specialises in IT solutions for the education sector, is offering to migrate data and key applications to a secure, cloud-based solution, allowing head teachers and business managers speedy and remote access to their finance and management information systems, without having to go into their schools, or struggle on slow speeds at home.

“In these difficult and unprecedented times, the challenge schools face is finishing the academic year with their management information and finance systems up to date and ready for the new school year,” said Nigel Jones, Managing Director of CloudHappi.

“The issue is the majority of schools’ servers are on site, while staff are working at home during lockdown. They are finding it difficult to connect to their servers remotely and the slow speeds are making it hard or impossible to use their management information and finance systems.”

CloudHappi has teamed up with Access – one of the largest suppliers of educational Finance and HR software in the UK, which supports more than 9,000 schools – to transfer key applications and data on the curriculum server to the cloud, free of charge, until the 31st August 2020. This means heads and business managers have easy, fast access to the data while they work from home.

All the information will be relocated to the same secure London Docklands data centre which is trusted and used by some of the UK’s leading brands and Access’s Cloud itself, and is all backed up to an equally impressive and secure data centre, 26 miles away. Unlike other solutions the data and applications never leave the UK.

Nigel added: “Schools using this service are seeing speed improvements of 35-40%, without having to change the computer they use or their hardworking broadband service. There is little or no downtime during the migration process, and the service is completely free for the duration of the current crisis or up to the end of August. We will then migrate data back again to the schools’ individual servers unless they decide to remain with CloudHappi as a preferred supplier.”

Graham Withers, Sales Manager, Access Education said: “Schools are busy virtually supporting pupils while looking after vulnerable and keyworker children. Knowing that core applications are working seamlessly in the background and can be easily accessed is essential, but we know it can be difficult using on-premise solutions. While the Access Education products are cloud based, we realise that lots of the systems our customers use aren’t. SIMS is a popular tool and we are delighted to be working with CloudHappi to offer a completely free solution to give schools choice and help them at this difficult time.”

The free CloudHappi/Access Curriculum Rescue Service applies to schools’ financial and business management systems, and does not apply to any of the teaching data held. For more information email , SIMSRescue@cloudhappi.com call 0845 834 0300 or visit Cloudhappi.com.

Further support for schools and colleges to provide remote education

  • Thousands of schools to benefit from technical support to start using Google and Microsoft’s education platforms
  • Follows the announcement of laptops and tablets for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people earlier this week
  • New network of schools and colleges to share best practice on remote education

Thousands of schools will benefit from a ground-breaking partnership with tech giants to gain access to education platforms.

Expert technical support to access Google and Microsoft’s education platforms, along with free training on how to use the resources most effectively, will be available for schools immediately. This will include online resources, support getting set up, webinars and peer to peer support between schools.

This follows the Government’s pledge to provide laptops and tablets for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people across England.

The Government has committed over £100 million to provide devices and internet access for those who need it most, as well as ensuring every school that wants it has access to free, expert technical support to get set up on Google for Education or Microsoft’s Office 365 Education.

On Friday 24 April, the Government wrote to local authorities, trusts and other relevant organisations overseeing schools and children’s social care outlining the process for ordering the devices. The Government has already placed a bulk order and organisations will be able to register to receive their allocation from today, while institutions that administer the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund will be able to apply for a top-up.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

“As schools, parents and children adapt to the changing environment we are all faced with, it is vital that we provide them with the right support so young people are able to continue their education. 

“Through close partnership with the education sector and two of the world’s biggest tech companies, we are working to ensure that children can continue their studies while they are at home.

“Laptops and tablets for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils are on their way and will begin being distributed in weeks, enabling those most in need to access online resources.”

To further support schools and colleges in delivering the best possible remote education, twenty institutions with outstanding technology practices have been awarded between £70,000 and £150,000 through the EdTech Demonstrators programme.

The programme was announced last year to boost peer-to-peer support on the effective use of technology and has now been tailored to help schools and colleges provide education remotely. The reach of this programme will be expanded over the coming weeks, and schools and colleges can register their interest in receiving support from today.

Guidance for schools on choosing the right education platform to meet their needs will be hosted by The Key, including best practice case studies and myth busting. The guidance will walk schools through the key assets of both Google and Microsoft’s platforms and provide an option to register for Government-funded expert support in getting these platforms set up.

Liz Sproat, Head of Education, Google EMEA:

“This is a challenging time for UK schools, educators, parents and students and this initiative by the Department for Education provides vital support to schools seeking to enable remote learning.

“We are delighted that our suite of tools, resources and our partners can help schools maintain learning during these difficult times.”

Cindy Rose, CEO Microsoft UK, said:

“Schools across the UK are facing unprecedented challenges as their staff demonstrate incredible resilience, imagination and passion to ensure children are safe and able to keep learning while at home.

“We’re proudly working with the Department for Education to support the roll out of remote learning technology to those who need it. For some time now, Microsoft has offered Office 365 for Education free for schools and we continue working on a number of fronts to support the education community with the latest technology during this difficult time.”

New music institute creates video library to support students working at home

A soon-to-open music institute in the West Midlands is developing a library of online videos designed to support further education and 6th form students who are missing out on face-to-face classes because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Resonance, which will be accepting its first cohort of undergraduate students this September, is creating the study support videos following discussions with FE college music teachers.

“We’ve built up a good relationship with level 3 course leaders at colleges around the country over the last few months and are keen to support them as they continue to deliver their course material to students online,” said Rick Benton, Resonance Director for Industry and Partnerships.

“Music is such a ‘hands-on’ subject that teaching it online presents real challenges. We know we can’t replace the experience of classroom study, but our videos address some of the most common technical and production issues students will face when they’re working in the music business, as well as exploring what it’s like to work in the industry.

“We’re continuing to talk to course leaders on an ongoing basis to get their input and ensure that the material we produce is based on what their students will find most helpful.”

The videos are presented by the Resonance Team of course leaders and industry partners. They include practical demonstrations and explanations of key music production techniques and technologies, along with examples of how to use them in real world applications and ground-up explanations of the terminology and theory behind the techniques. 

The tutorials will be universally accessible to BTEC and A level students at any stage of their course and the lessons learned can be unilaterally applied, whatever studio environment or software they have access to.

Current subjects include noise gates, understanding phase, compression and a guide to UK Music’s ‘Music by Numbers’ report. New videos are being uploaded every week.

The study support videos can be found on the Resonance website at https://www.resonance-edu.org/video_categories/study-resource/ and on the Resonance TV YouTube channel’s ‘Study Support’ playlist (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLekCLQdI2UfEgeUrFNU2vEAIgeC2PqFz3)  

Resonance is opening in September 2020 at The Waterfront near Dudley, West Midlands. Run on a not-for-profit basis by music industry professionals with the support of some of the industry’s most significant businesses, the institute is initially offering six undergraduate degrees validated by Solent University. It is currently running online open days and interviews and is accepting students up until the end of August 2020. 

For more information visit www.resonance-edu.org.

School Superheroes Campaign

TheSchoolBus has launched a ‘School Superheroes’ campaign to give recognition to those going beyond the call of duty at this time.

As extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity prevail throughout the Education community during the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign will help contribute to some much needed positive news. Further details can be found via the link, and stories can be shared by emailing clare.booth@hub4leaders.co.uk.

Free Coronavirus Resource For All Schools

TheSchoolBus has made a number of their Coronavirus Response Resources available to all schools completely free of charge, in order to alleviate some of the burden faced by schools at this time. 

The resources provide valuable information and guidance on latest developments and government advice, and can be accessed here, and with a commitment to the education community, the provision of contact details are not required in order to gain access to this free resource.

Free e-Learning Offer

TheSchoolBus has made their e-learning platform available for free to schools who join the service, in order to deliver maximum value during these difficult times and ensure staff working from home enjoy continued access to learning opportunities.

When schools sign up for a free demonstration of TheSchoolBus with one of their product experts and subsequently subscribe to the service, their subscription will be upgraded to include the e-learning platform, comprising over 30 online courses.

Demonstrations can be organised via the link or by emailing cody.white@hub4leaders.co.uk

Online Education during COVID-19: 10 Perspectives from Educators in China

By Michael Epstein, Vice President Education, ClassIn

In a recent Edsurge’s panel discussion, Professor Guo Wenge, Principal Aaron Lennon and I shared our experiences and learnings on the shift to online learning in China that was triggered by Covid-19. This prompted a number of issues, including how to foster a sense of community online, strategies for strengthening the home-school connection and designing learning experiences to maximise impact and interactivity.

To keep this conversation going and offer further support to schools making the transition to online learning, I would like to share ten suggestions for dealing with the transition offered by educators from numerous universities, secondary schools, and elementary schools.

Something is always better than nothing

Although schooling online may feel unfamiliar or overwhelming, it is essential that education continues. The impact of school closures will be felt for years to come and once schools eventually reopen, missed months will need to be compensated for. Given the lengthy closure and time needed to get back to where we were before schools closed, it may be impossible for students to advance to the next grade. The result of this will be a lost year of education for a generation of students. If online classes can avoid this, they will have been worth it.

You can’t afford not to

Imagine the scenario: the entire school system shuts down, no one graduates, no one advances. What about the four-year-old’s who will be five the following year? How will the system deal with these young students as well as the six-year-olds who are repeating the year? How will the school support students if they are in a class twice the size of an average one? Is there enough teachers, resources, and space?

An equally frightening scenario is that some schools shut down while others do not. What happens if a secondary school decides to shut down, but none or only some of junior schools do not? The social and economic risk will be far too great for the education system to overcome.

You have more tools than you think

There are a number of tools that can be used to support online learning and keep schools on track so that students will be ready to advance at the end of the school year. A couple of examples being familiar online platforms which help maintain communication such as email and instant messaging. Organisations such as Learning Keeps Going and Global Online Academy are also curating archives of free online resources to support schools and communities as they make the transition to online. Thinking comprehensively about the available resources and making strategic decisions on how to utilise them will ensure teachers and students thrive.

Be prepared for the long haul

While the Covid-19 situation developed in China, the length of time schools needed to rely on online education increased drastically. Schools must think long-term.  The current curriculum may require reassessing so it can be easily accessed online. There will be tough choices to make such as to whether learning outcomes will be scaled back or cut completely due to the school’s time and resources. Equally, they will have to determine whether learning outcomes can be exceeded in an online environment.

The possibilities and limitations in an online environment differ from offline. Teachers may find that they are relying more on performance tasks and portfolios than traditional pencil-and-paper exams. It may be worth examining how they make student assessments, as this will provide an indispensable window on student learning and invaluable insight on what adjustments need to be made to teaching.

Plan for hearts, plan for mind

If teachers are new to the online experience, they will likely need to plan lessons with more detail than they have been accustomed to for some time. It may feel like their first year of teaching again.

Part of this planning is clearly communicating to students what is expected of them through tools such as checklists. Developing learning activities that are hands on and minds on, offering multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression is key. To this end, CAST’s UDL framework is an indispensable resource. Teachers’ lesson preparation will communicate the legitimacy of the learning students are doing at home. If they see their teachers invested in the online experience, they are far more likely to invest themselves in the experience, and in doing so, get more out of it.

A classroom environment and synchronous learning is preferable.  Those moments for connection that come so naturally in the classroom may be more challenging in online classrooms. As part of lesson planning, teachers will want to consider activities that support student to student interaction as well as activities that focus on emotional wellness. Beyond this, teachers also need to plan for informal interactions with students, whether through weekly video check-ins, class chat groups, or social forum. The learning students do at school is more than subject knowledge; it is also about learning to live together, especially in these difficult times.  

Do not neglect your network and hardware

Think about both software and hardware. Teachers will need to have computers or tablets which can run software and apps for online teaching, combined with a decent network infrastructure. Without it, the school may risk classes being disrupted by network slowdowns, or poor access to learning materials and resources.

The benefits of having the right hardware and network are twofold. First the time teachers and students spend in the online learning environment will be focused on learning rather than dealing with technical issues, keeping them on track. Second, it will engender goodwill and confidence from teachers, students, and parents alike. They will recognise that the school is committed to the continuation of learning, which will in turn encourage their own commitment to making online learning a success.

  • Continuously assess results

Once learning plans are in place and an online learning system is launched, regular checks will need to be made to ensure the school is delivering what has been promised. Teachers, students, and parents will be making demands that teachers may not have envisioned. Regularly testing the stability of a network enables them to spot and address risks before they become problems, such as network crashing during periods of high traffic.

Regular analysis and evaluation of network security is also critical. We have seen schools negatively impacted by unauthorised users accessing networks or software, which has resulted in the exposure of inappropriate content to students or the hijacking of teachers’ and students’ computers or devices.

User experience is also important for engaging teaching online. How do students, parents, and teachers feel about the online experience? Do they find the platform easy to use? What problems do they encounter? What concerns do they have? Do students feel like they are learning?

Strengthen your IT

In the scramble to get the school online, it is easy to overlook IT needs. For many schools, the technical demands of online learning are far greater than those of offline learning; not only the initial task of getting the system up and running, but also the ongoing demands once classes have been launched. It is helpful to have an honest assessment of the current IT staff’s capabilities to determine whether they are capable of the technical demands the school will face. Make sure that IT and teaching staff are working together both before and after launch, so teachers get the support they need as they teach.

Train your teachers

Some teachers may have online teaching experience, others will not. Time spent on teacher training before and after the launch will ensure that all staff are able to deliver quality education. Key areas are online tools training, how to manage a classroom online, and how to develop and curate activities for online use. Teachers need opportunities to create actual activities and resources that they will use in the classroom as well the chance to conduct mock classes and receive feedback. Coming out of this initial training, teachers should have all the materials they need to teach.

Put people at the core

The foundation for success is not the technology. Great technology can help create the nurturing and supportive environment for student growth and learning online, but it is the people that will make this happen.

The Covid-19 pandemic confronts the world with a monumental challenge. As educators, we have our part to play. We may not be health care professionals on the frontline, but our task is vital. Our efforts can help bring stability and normality to the lives of children and parents and make this crisis easier to endure. We hope that the experiences and insights of Chinese educators who have already been dealing with the challenges you are facing offer you support in your endeavors.

“To help with the continuation of teaching and learning during Covid-19, ClassIn is currently offering free access to its platform to any educational establishment until at least the end of June.  Click here for more information

Industry leaders unite to deliver Learning in Lockdown

Experts from across the built environment and education sectors have joined forces to launch a UK-first fully accredited virtual work experience programme open to all Year 10 (England), Year 11 (Northern Ireland) and S4 (Scotland) students in UK secondary schools.

Led by public sector procurement specialist, Scape Group, ‘Learning in Lockdown’ is a free to join, week-long programme created by Class of Your Own, Learn Live, EDT (The Engineering Development Trust) and Industrial Cadets.

The programme will be delivered by a panel of industry experts, spanning the UK’s biggest contractors and consultants and include daily sessions with industry and career insights, mentoring and fully moderated live chat to engage and inspire the young learners.

Learning in Lockdown will also be supported by students from Heriot Watt University’s School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society (EGIS), providing additional advice to participants.

Developed by Class of Your Own, the Learning in Lockdown syllabus will be based around a team design challenge – the Esteem Pavilion Challenge – that will use the full breadth of STEM subjects, focusing on design, engineering, construction and sustainability.

The students will learn and put into practice an array of real-world skills, from creative thinking and team collaboration, through to building design and project management. While attending online advice and guidance sessions throughout the week, participants will work together virtually in small groups, alongside industry mentors, to deliver a fully detailed design proposal for the real-life construction project, with prizes available for exceptional teams.

Learning in Lockdown is fully audited meaning students that complete the programme will have completed 30 hours of accredited work experience, and by submitting an Esteem Pavilion Challenge entry, they will receive the Industrial Cadets – Silver level Award. Students will become part of the nationally recognised Industrial Cadets accreditation network and open a door to further exciting opportunities for themselves.

The Social Value Portal will also monitor and report upon the social value generated throughout the whole initiative, supporting the construction industry’s shared goal of delivering “more good” in communities. 

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, comments: “Work experience is vital in exposing young people to the variety of career opportunities and tangible rewards that exist in construction. Naturally, this is an activity that has had to cease, at least for now, due to the current social distancing measures in place, but we wanted to find a digital route that would still allow us to inspire the next generation.

“We put a call out to all our industry partners, and we were inundated with ideas. Within just a few days, and with the support of our fantastic collaborators, we were able to develop this first of its kind programme, able to serve thousands of young people and hopefully leave a lasting legacy across the UK.”

Alison Watson MBS, chief executive of Class of Your Own, added: “Class Of Your Own has worked with schools and industry for over a decade to ensure children and young people have access to an excellent curriculum and a wide range of other authentic learning experiences, both in school and at home. We have a track record in creating extraordinary opportunities for the next generation of construction professionals and so I’m delighted to support this exciting campaign.”

Learn Live will provide the broadcast and fully moderated, interactive online experience to deliver the programme. Alongside the syllabus, Class of Your Own will provide learning resources and guidance for teachers, students, and the industry professionals who will support them.

Learning in Lockdown is open to all Year 10 (England), Year 11 (Northern Ireland) and S4 (Scotland) students in the UK and will run from the 18th – 22nd May 2020.

To find out more and register your school for the Learning in Lockdown programme visit: https://www.scapegroup.co.uk/learning-in-lockdown

The firms supporting Learning in Lockdown include:

  • National Association Construction Frameworks (NACF)
  • Balfour Beatty
  • Morgan Sindall
  • Seddon
  • Robertson
  • Willmott Dixon
  • The Social Value Portal
  • And many others