Coronavirus / Covid-19 ETS Guidance for HEIs
ETS Wales Guidance to HEIs providing Professional Youth and Community Work Programmes in Wales for the Academic Year 2020-21
This guidance applies to the academic year 2020 – 2021, while restrictions to mitigate the Covid-19 crisis are in place, and to learners who have been, or may be affected by these restrictions. The guidance is provided by ETS Wales, the Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) for Youth Work in Wales, and will be reviewed as necessary when further guidance is issued by Welsh Government.
The guidance has been drawn up in conjunction with ETS England, and following consultation with TAG Cymru. We will be collaborating also with our PSRB partners in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to achieve as much consistency as possible.
In the light of the recently re-issued ETS Wales Endorsement Guidelines, guidance from the QAA, and discussion with colleagues in Wales and across the UK, this guidance and any measures taken by HEIs for the mitigation of disruption to students’ learning and practice as a result of Coronavirus should be underpinned by the following principles:
- Ensuring ‘no detriment’ to students on end of year activity
- Avoiding ‘compound disadvantage’ for learners, in terms of catching up on placement hours alongside academic and wider professional studies
- Trusting the professional judgement of programme teams in institutions offering professional qualifications in youth and community work
- Identifying alternative measures for evidencing competence
- Equipping staff and students for digital youth work
- Listening to the student experience
- Making youth and community work courses a priority for resuming campus based teaching and learning in September 2020.
1. Meeting Professional Standards in Youth and Community Work
Regardless of COVID-19 restrictions, it is essential that students graduating from professional youth work programmes adhere to the values of youth and community work and the EWC Code of Practice, can demonstrate and apply the National Occupational Standards, and ultimately are fit to practise (see paragraph 60 of the Endorsement Guidelines). We invite institutions to be innovative in ways of assessing these, where restrictions make it difficult to do so in practical settings. We are working with sector colleagues to collect examples of innovative practice from institutions which can be shared, for example, in devising alternative ways of measuring students’ learning and practice (see section 4 - Alternative Strategies for Professional Practice).
2. Approaches to Teaching and Learning, and Structuring of Programmes
We understand Youth and Community Work programmes have been asked by their institutions to indicate which of their modules could be delivered on-line, and even to plan for all modules to move on-line. ETS supports the case for Y&CW programmes to continue to be campus and placement-based wherever possible. We take this view based on discussions with TAG Cymru members, in which the following points were highlighted:
- Many professional youth workers have continued working in key roles in their communities throughout the Covid pandemic;
- As Youth and Community Work BA and PGDip programmes endorsed by ETS confer professional status, youth work students should be regarded on the same basis as other key worker professional groups and prioritised in returning to campus in the new academic year;
- Y&C students often come from non-traditional academic backgrounds and require a significant level of tutor support which may be seriously affected where they no longer have direct contact with tutors;
- Classroom teaching methods and the student learning experience deliberately mirror the youth work setting, which cannot be adequately replicated by remote interaction;
- Students are expected to be active participants in small group learning sessions throughout the programme. Wherever possible this should be undertaken on campus and in placement. Where this is not possible ETS still expects group-work to be a key element in on-line teaching and learning.
With respect to on-line learning, which may be beneficial as part of a package of blended learning, it is essential that HEIs have means to confirm engagement and ensure that students fully and actively participate in interactive dialogue with lecturers and their peers.
A briefing on digital youth work has been produced through Joint ETS (JETS) with colleagues in PSRBs in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and contains useful guidance on digital approaches. It is available here.
We accept that simulation exercises may be used to complement and further examine practice-based learning, however we do not encourage institutions to use simulation exercises to substitute for face to face professional practice, as we believe it is difficult to replicate real youth work situations.
Some institutions may be planning to change the timing of certain modules in their programmes, for example delivering some level 4/5 modules at level 5/6 and vice-versa. As long as this fits within the institution’s own programme design and assessment strategy ETS is content for institutions to use professional judgement in this matter. However, forward-loading of placements may prove too big a strain for some providers, given that many youth organisations may not be fully operational by September 2020. We encourage institutions to continue to engage in dialogue with placement providers in accommodating students on placement.
3. Requirements for Professional Practice
Professional practice is a pre-requisite of achieving a professional qualification in youth work. Section 10 of the ETS Guidelines sets out minimum levels of assessed professional practice (800 hours for degree programmes and 300 hours for post-graduate programmes). We appreciate that COVID-19 restrictions may present considerable difficulties in achieving these, both for youth work placement providers and for students.
The current ETS Wales COVID guidance (March 2020) focussed on completion of the academic year 2019-20, and allowed final year students to graduate if they had completed 700 out of the 800 required hours for the whole programme, and Level 4 and 5 students to progress by carrying forward uncompleted hours to the next level. However, for the 2020-21 academic year, in order to avoid compounding disadvantage for learners, completion of 75% of the required hours across the whole programme will be acceptable (ie 600 out of 800 hours for the BA and 225 out of 300 for the PGDip), provided that students have gained a consistent pass in previous practice assessments (where applicable) and are considered fit to continue practising. These allowances should be seen as minimum requirements not as targets (students should still be encouraged to achieve the full 800 or 300 hours, and 50% of the hours must still be face to face with young people) and will enable flexible distribution of placement hours across the programme, bearing in mind the importance of practice occurring alongside theoretical learning.
The 75% allowance may also be used for applicants for BA or PGDip programmes or those progressing from foundation programmes to the degree, in which cases the professional judgement of the admitting tutor as to the academic capacity and professional potential of the learner is crucial.
Youth work undertaken through digital platforms will be considered as face to face work in the same way as actual face to face practice with young people.
Practice undertaken before the student registered for their qualification programme should not be counted towards the minimum practice-hours, unless such practice meets requirements set out in the Endorsement Guidelines for accreditation of prior learning. However, if individual students are able to evidence particular elements of NOS through assignments drawing on previous experience, and that meets the institution’s assessment criteria, institutions should make their own judgements on whether this can be accepted.
4. Alternative Strategies for Professional Practice
Given the uncertainties surrounding when youth work practice may open fully once again, and the exceptional circumstances of the current pandemic, it may be sensible to have contingency plans ready in case there is a dearth of placements in September. Here are some ideas for alternative strategies shared at the ETS/HEI meeting on 19 June:
- Run placements within the university given the presence of many 18 to 25 year olds in the student cohort;
- Have student-led placements, eg level 6 students supervising L4s, with supervision from Y&CW lecturing staff;
- Do youth work digitally (see 2 re the Digital YW Briefing Paper) eg engaging in advice and information work on-line;
- Concentrate on outdoor and street-level youth work, a relatively safer environment in relation to Coronavirus than working indoors;
- Alter the order or timing of practice modules (see 2 for caveat);
- Prioritise placement opportunities for level 5 and 6 students;
- Think creatively about level 4 placements – students could produce a tool-kit of youth work activities and curriculum ideas to be used then at levels 5 and 6;
- Maintain the link between studying theory and applying it in practice wherever possible;
- Use your external examiners for ideas and to check whether a particular strategy is consonant with professional practice;
- Discuss proposals with ETS – we recognise the difficulties colleagues may be facing and wish to help wherever we can.
Where it proves impossible for placements to take place, students are encouraged to contact their course leaders to explore university systems for mitigation.
5. Supervision and Assessment of Professional Practice/Fieldwork
Requirements for placement supervision should continue to be met during periods of COVID-19 restrictions. Individual supervisors/students may conduct supervision sessions via online platforms rather than in face to face meetings.
We expect that the arrangements for the assessment of professional practice/fieldwork will remain the same, though face to face supervision and 3-way meetings may be replaced by online sessions. Where practice has moved from face to face to digital delivery, we expect supervisors and, where appropriate, fieldwork tutors still to observe the student in their practice and give feedback.
We understand that the current arrangements have made it difficult for some supervisors who have been furloughed or assigned to other duties to provide end of placement assessment reports. Where this occurs, it is expected course teams will use professional judgement to make decisions about the quality of a student’s practice, taking account of their knowledge of the student, previous placements, 3/4-way meetings and any indications the supervisor may be able provide.
6. Student Voice in Programme Monitoring and Review
In uncertain circumstances such as the COVID-19 restrictions, students are likely to be more than usually concerned about their learning and progress on the programme. We urge institutions to ensure that they have effective student voice mechanisms in place for Youth and Community programmes and that these can be moved to digital engagement when that is necessary.
7. Fieldwork/Employer Voice in Programme Monitoring and Review
Given the challenges facing the youth work field at present we recognise that employer engagement is perhaps more difficult than in normal circumstances. However, our experience indicates that many fieldworkers/employers are keen to engage with forums that allow them to consider wider issues for the field, including the implications of COVID-19, and that online platforms can provide an effective way of bringing people together without spending time travelling to meetings. We encourage institutions to maintain and further develop this approach to employer engagement in order to stay abreast of developments in the field, and ensure a sufficient supply of appropriate placements for their students.
8. Reporting Modifications to ETS
ETS Wales Endorsement Guidelines explain what institutions should do if they need to make changes to their programmes within their normal endorsement timescale (see Section 4 paragraphs 82-86).
For changes required on a temporary basis because of COVID-19 restrictions, as long as they fit with the guidance above, and are within the institutions own guidelines and measures, notification to the PSRB will not be necessary. We recommend consultation with external examiners when devising measures to mitigate the impacts of the COVID restrictions to ensure they do not excessively compromise the quality of programmes. Course teams must exercise their professional judgement in the application of these guidelines in the inevitable range of circumstances they will encounter.
Proposed temporary changes that fall outside this guidance should be discussed with the ETS Adviser, who will explain whether they constitute minor, substantial or major modifications requiring increasing levels of scrutiny by ETS officers, members and/or the Chair of the previous endorsement panel.
9. Guidance for Programme Endorsement and/or Re-endorsement
A scheduled re-endorsement has taken place online during the period of lockdown as a result of the Covid crisis. While this worked well ETS considers that (re)endorsement in person offers richer dialogue and as restrictions are eased we would regard these as preferable where safe to do so. If restrictions remain, or are re-instated, ETS will consider deferment if there are sufficient grounds. However, our preference, during the period of restrictions only, would be for events to take place online where possible.
10. Review of COVID-19 Guidance
ETS will keep its guidance under review and may need to make changes based on guidance from Welsh Government, feedback from institutions and the youth work field. While the situation relating to COVID-19 remains unpredictable we recommend HEIs develop contingency arrangements for teaching and learning, assessment and placements for at least the coming academic year. We welcome your feedback so please get in touch with ETS Adviser, Liz Rose or ETS Chair, Steve Drowley with any observations or suggestions.
Additional Guidance from ETS Wales for the Academic Year 2019-20 @27.03.2020
Further to our guidance of 18.03.2020 below, we have issued additional guidance in response to a number of individual queries.
- 1b. Guidance for the health and safety of students on placements continuing to operate:
ETS Guidelines expect universities to take note of the QAA guidance on workplace learning which mentions health and safety, along with current UK/Welsh Government/Public Health guidance and any internal policies produced in response. Some provision used for placements has closed altogether while some youth workers are being redeployed to help with school provision. Universities will need to deal with this on a case-by-case basis so that students in specific circumstances or with specific conditions can be accommodated safely.
- 2b. Guidance for meeting the requirement for 50% face-face-work in placements:
Please refer to points 1a&2a below which require universities to use their discretion based on the student's past academic and practice performance.
- 3b. Guidance for meeting the requirement for new applicants to have 100 hours experience:
HEIs should adhere to the requirement for 100 hours experience in a youth and community work setting wherever possible; this normally applies to the date on which the applicant will start on the programme, bearing in mind there may well be opportunity over the summer for hours to be undertaken if and when measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus are relaxed.
Programme Directors will need to exercise their professional judgement in making offers in cases where an otherwise well-qualified applicant has not been, or will not be, able to complete 100 hours experience, for example taking into account other related experience that indicates the desirable characteristics and values for a youth and community work student, and ensuring as far as possible the necessary ability and appropriateness.
For those applicants where there is a significant lack of pre-experience, an offer may be made conditional on the applicant completing an additional number of hours at Level 4. This should not exceed 100 hours and in most cases would be far fewer.
Guidance from ETS Wales for the Academic Year 2019-20 @18.03.2020
A number of colleagues have raised queries about the potential effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly on fieldwork placements in JNC recognised Youth and Community Work programmes. Please see the following advice from ETS Wales, based on advice from ETS England. This applies to programmes in Wales and to the Open University for students in Wales.
JNC-recognised degree programmes specify a required number of hours of supervised practice, with awards contingent upon the practice being completed to a required standard. The necessity of supervised practice is a core element of the degree that prepares students for youth work. To graduate and achieve professional status a Youth and Community Work student must complete the specified number of hours in assessed professional practice, and pass this practice in full.
The ETS Wales Endorsement Guidelines state that:
- For Undergraduate Awards: a course must include at least 800 hours of assessed professional practice across the programme, a minimum of 50% of this time spent in face to face contact work with young people aged 11 to 25.
- For Postgraduate Awards: a course must include at least 300 hours of assessed professional practice across the programme, a minimum of 50% of this time spent in face to face contact work with young people aged 11-25.
However, the potential consequences of COVID-19 (including the temporary closure of practice agencies/activities) are that some students may be prevented from completing the required assessed professional practice. Due to these exceptional and rapidly changing circumstances, ETS Wales is issuing guidance to manage and minimise disruption to students and HEIs regarding fieldwork practice, while seeking to ensure that the quality of degree programmes is not compromised.
The following guidance is issued for HEIs to help plan for any scenarios where planned practice hours may be affected on undergraduate or postgraduate Youth & Community Work programmes:
Additional ETS Wales Guidelines (as of 18.03.2020):
- 1a. Guidance for Non-Final Year Students:
For students at levels 4 and 5 of their programme whose practice is disrupted, we suggest that universities, at their discretion based upon practice and academic performance, progress them to the next year/level without having completed all the required fieldwork, on condition that they undertake additional supervised fieldwork to make up the hours, and the learning outcomes associated with them, at a later stage in their programme. Individual universities should work with placements and students to identify when this could be possible – including the use of time outside typical University teaching terms/semesters.
- 2a. Guidance for Final Year Students:
Final-year (Level 6) students are more likely to have completed most of their practice hours but will also potentially face the greatest disruption. In these exceptional circumstances we propose that universities, at their discretion based upon practice and academic performance, accept a revised total of 700 hours of assessed professional practice as a qualifying standard, rather than 800, providing students have demonstrated a consistent pass in previous practice assessments and there are no concerns about their fieldwork practice. This allowance would not apply for students on the pass/fail borderline where alternative practice evidence to support a pass and/or defer a programme pass would need to be provided.
- 3a. Guidance for Post-graduate Students:
We recognise that postgraduate students have a more compact timescale and a disruption of 2-3 months could risk non-completion of their programme. However, in this case we consider the required 300 hours is the absolute minimum requirement for a pass in fieldwork practice. Therefore, if a student is on a PG Dip programme, full or part-time, HEIs may need to consider extending the programme and review the graduation date to ensure students have time to complete assessed professional practice. As with BA students, individual universities should work with placements and students to identify when this could be possible, extending into university holiday periods if necessary.
- 4a. Guidance on Individual Circumstances:
Where a student has the necessary experience from wider evidence of supervised practice (for example, if a student is also employed in an appropriate youth organisation), an exemption to the requirements may be possible providing a case is made for compensatory practice hours. However, the learning outcomes of supervised practice will need to be clearly evidenced and any decision should be taken with approval from the appointed External Examiner for fieldwork practice.
- 5a. Guidance on Assessment Criteria:
We recognise that certain assessment criteria within individual modules may involve group work activities and therefore cannot be completed. Here, alternative creative assessment tools should be used instead to ensure that students are able to complete their programmes of learning.
Note on Wider Impact of University Closures or Travel Restrictions
ETS Wales recognises that there may also be a wider impact on the development and endorsement of programmes during any closure of Universities or travel restrictions caused by a continued outbreak of Covid-19. Further guidance is detailed, below, regarding scheduled endorsement and/or re-endorsement activities:
- 6a. Guidance on Scheduled Re-endorsement:
If an HEI is closed when a scheduled re-endorsement is due to take place, ETS Wales will consider extending the existing endorsement period for a further year at the HEI’s request. In these exceptional circumstances, a request for extension should be put in writing at the earliest opportunity and addressed to the ETS Adviser.
- 7a. Guidance on New Programme Endorsements:
For new programmes we consider it a necessity to meet with University personnel and relevant stakeholders to inform the decision to endorse a JNC recognised programme. If a scheduled panel cannot take place because the University is closed (or travel is prohibited), a postponement to the endorsement will be required until a date can be rescheduled and the proposal will remain subject to endorsement until full approval has been gained. ETS Wales will make every effort to schedule this event prior to commencement of the new academic year.
- 8a. Further Guidance:
We appreciate that there is currently uncertainty with regards to the situation that is arising as COVID-19 develops and spreads. With the situation being fluid and contingent upon official guidance from Governments in Westminster and Cardiff, we will regularly review our guidance and ensure any updated information is issued in a timely manner.
- 9a. Queries:
If you have any queries relating to this guidance or to your particular programme(s) please don’t hesitate to contact Liz Rose (ETS Adviser) or Steve Drowley (ETS Chair) at ETS Wales: