Stoke on Trent College has introduced a range of new ways to support its students during the lockdown period for Coronavirus – and has seen an increase in demand for its counselling services, mentoring and ‘wellbeing warriors’ amongst students and their families.
Students of all ages are taking up the offer of video and telephone counselling appointments, wellbeing check-ins, virtual drop-in sessions and online enrichment activities as a way of staying connected to the college’s student services team. Support is being delivered via a combination of video conference, video call, instant messaging, telephone and a new wellbeing blog offering tips on self-care, body positivity, managing anxiety and mindfulness.
Paige Harrison, Counsellor and wellbeing coordinator at Stoke on Trent College, explains: “When the lockdown was announced, the college stayed open for its most vulnerable students while the vast majority continued their learning through our virtual learning platform.
However, in addition to this, we recognised that some students and their families may need additional wellbeing support and reassurance. This is something we have always provided in person at both our campuses, but it is now even more accessible.”
She explains: “For some students, college is their safe place. They may be vulnerable or suffer anxiety or mental health issues. They are used to receiving lots of support at college for those things and continue to do so – with peer mentoring, trained counsellors, and wellbeing warriors.
However, in addition to that, we are also now seeing an increase in take up of our support services from students who haven’t needed us before the pandemic. They are experiencing health anxiety, or they are worried about family members who are key workers. Some may be struggling with the lack of physical activity or motivation to study, and others with the loss of interaction with their friends. Others may be worried about exam results or job prospects when this is all over. It is a lot of uncertainty for young people and adult learners to deal with and we recognise that can have an impact.
Teenage students don’t always feel confident appearing on video calls, and they have found that the calls with us have now helped them gain self confidence in staying connected with friends and relatives. We also host an ‘It’s Good to Talk’ and a ‘Tea and Talk’ group session online every week, for any of our students to access and our mentoring team have been delivering peer mentor training and group support, and interactive arts and craft sessions online.”
The college is also taking a pro-active approach to the wellbeing of its 400 staff.
Paige, age 28, from Stoke-on-Trent, explains: “Many staff are working remotely, adapting to new technologies and new ways of working, while others are teaching vulnerable students on campus. For some employees, this can lead to a feeling of overwhelm if they have caring or home-schooling responsibilities. For others it can be lonely if they are used to working in a team and a busy environment. We have introduced a ‘My Acts of Self Care’ initiative as well as the virtual ‘time to talk’ sessions. Feedback from staff, students and parents has been very positive and it is something that we all feel passionately about.”
Paige is combining her work at the college with a volunteering role making staff wellbeing calls to key workers at the North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust – a job she previously did before she joined the college last December.
Stoke on Trent College is also offering telephone and virtual careers advice sessions for students of any age who may need careers advice – this includes year 10 and 11 school pupils as well as any members of the public who are concerned about future employment and need help with training, CV writing or searching for work. To book a session, please email firstname.lastname@example.org