Impact of COVID-19 on Felixstowe International College students applying to university in 2021
Information for university and college admissions teams
Felixstowe International College is a small, independent boarding school with a Christian ethos. All students (mostly from South Korea and China) speak English as an additional language; lessons are delivered in English and students are expected to speak English at all times. Students are able to study a selection of subjects at GCSE; however, the provision at A level centres mainly on the study of mathematics and the sciences. Most students progress to HE, either in the UK or abroad.
At the outset of lockdown in March 2020, all our students returned to their home countries. All students currently in the sixth form are from South Korea.
Teaching staff were furloughed from March to July, during which time students were given text book tasks/projects/past exam papers to complete in their own homes. Direct teaching support at this time, in line with Government expectations, was minimal.
From July, teaching staff were released from furlough and began to present regular, timetabled online lessons with accompanying homework tasks. This continued throughout what would normally be considered the summer holidays, until the start of the Autumn Term in September 2020.
Obviously, during the furloughed period (from March to July) students lost the vast majority of their normal teaching time. Although most students completed their set tasks, formative feedback and detailed instruction was limited and so students found it difficult to make expected progress during this time.
With the commencement of online lessons in July, the situation improved for our students; however, communication over such distances and time differences was not always straightforward: often communication was interrupted due to technical difficulties, students were unable to hear clearly, there was sometimes excessive background noise, and students often felt reluctant to voice any concerns or problems.
Furthermore, Year 12 students would normally have begun their UCAS applications in the summer term, researching prospective universities and drafting personal statements. This can often take longer with international students, whose first language is not English and who are unfamiliar with British geography and the huge number of courses available. Although the students have appreciated the number of ‘virtual’ tours posted by UCAS, they missed the benefit of attending face-to-face meetings via the annual UCAS marketplace events.
Similarly, the transition back to ‘normal’ lessons in the UK has not been easy for some students after having been away for so long and, unsurprisingly, one or two have ‘dipped’ in performance, making the estimation of predicted grades quite troublesome for teachers. However, our students are resilient and determined and, with support, they will soon be back on track. The UCAS application process commenced on their return to the UK in September 2020 when the students began Year 13.
As a result of the latest lockdown commencing in December 2020, only two of our international students were able to travel home for the Christmas holidays; these two students, both Year 13, are currently still in South Korea and hope to return to the UK in February, though the situation re. travel is very uncertain at this time. They are participating in online lessons. All other international students were unable to travel home and have, therefore, remained at school throughout the holiday period. However, with the ongoing support from pastoral staff on site, and with regular contact via Zoom with families and friends abroad, the students remain, for the most part, positive and focused, supporting each other and navigating their way through these difficult times. With only one exception, all our students remain determined to study at UK universities.