Sunderland College’s Foundation Learning team has been using technology to reduce social isolation and improve their students’ mental and emotional wellbeing.
Many students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) have found themselves cut off from their friends and family during lockdown, causing them to feel stressed, anxious and lonely, which has an adverse effect on their mental health.
With the team’s help, the students have been learning how to use devices such as mobile phones and tablets to make and receive audio and video calls, improving their communication and social interaction skills. They have also been encouraged to contact fellow students within the college with the hope of developing long-lasting friendships and increase their support network.
Tom Hodgson, Foundation Learning lecturer, said: “Learning how to use new technology is really important to our students as a way of communicating with others.
“Video calling is an essential skill in our ‘new normal’ and by showing our students how to use their devices to communicate with friends and family we are hoping to reduce loneliness and feelings of isolation.
“The students really enjoy using the technology and have beaming smiles on their faces when they see and speak to someone familiar, or take part in basic social activities such as birthday parties which has been restricted through lockdown.”
Some students have found the return to college challenging and have struggled to adapt to new guidelines such as social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing their hands more regularly and limited integration within the college.
To ease this transition, the Foundation Learning team introduced a ‘circuit breaker’ week from traditional learning to focus on fun activities such as arts and crafts, cooking, pumpkin painting and making tactile sensory boards which brought the students together and gave them a feeling of normality.
Tom added: “One of our key destinations for students with profound and multiple learning difficulties is day care and leisure providers.
“Many of these students are used to working 1:1 with staff and family members and the transition to day care where staffing is limited can be quite jarring for them.
“By taking part in these activities at college, within a safe environment they are familiar with, we hope to reduce future anxieties.”
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Our achievement rates are well above the national average.
We are the College of the Year.
(*Top college nationally for BTECs, Pearson 2019)
100% of our HND and HNC students progressed to employment or further study.
(*Destination data, academic year 2016/17, HNC 19+)
We have recently invested £50 million in our facilities.