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Updated: Dec 31, 2021

The first half-term saw students finally return to the classroom whilst also getting a taste of the new blended model that mixes face-to-face education with remote access learning. The standard of work being produced by the students has been excellent and they have made a great start to the year.

The new academic year brought a change in the delivery of education at the ESPFA and saw a move to a blended learning model. This allows the students and tutors the benefits of remote access learning whilst also keeping the face-to-face contact time to provide the best experience possible to our students. So far, both the staff and the students have adapted to the change very well and we are pleased with the results from the first half-term. Tom Gould, the Head of Quality for the ESPFA believes that the after observing how the students reacted to the online delivery that was needed due to COVID-19, a blended model could

be very successful. He said: As a result of the past 18-months and the three lockdowns we have faced due to the pandemic, online delivery was a necessity for large proportions of the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years. After gathering feedback from our past and current students during these periods, there were positive responses for both remote and face-to-face delivery, which if combined, we believed could help benefit all types of our learners moving forward.”

Over the first half-term the students and tutors have made an excellent start to the year and are getting used to the blended model more and more each day. Tom Gould has seen first-hand how the blended model has improved the education delivery this year and is confident it will continue to support the students further in their studies as the year goes on: “We have received some very positive feedback around the new model over the first seven weeks of term. As with anything that is new, it takes time to develop and build, which we are confident will continue to go from strength to strength… the initial responses from both our learners and tutors have been very pleasing.”

The new addition of the blended model isn’t the only positive that has come about from the new academic year. With no classroom restrictions in place anymore, it has meant that students can return safely to the education venues and take part in lessons with their peers. Lucas Buckley, an #ESPFAWestMidlands second year student has relished being back in the classroom and has benefitted from the return. He said: “Returning with my classmates to education has been ideal as we are able to return to a healthy routine provoking us to become more efficient in work quality and quantity, it's been particularly helpful as we can return to a sociable environment.” The positive working environment for the students is something we strive to create at the ESPFA, and we believe so far this has been achieved this year. This is something that #ESPFAWestMidlands tutor Lewis Moore has enjoyed since he started delivering the education in September. He said: “The facilities that the students get access to are brilliant to facilitate learning. The environment within the football club allows students and staff to have a great relationship to ensure everyone is enjoying the education. The high number of students enrolled create an atmosphere everybody wants to be part of.”

With the move over to a blended model put in place over the summer, where as well as face-to-face learning, the students have been engaging in online lessons through Microsoft Teams. This is something that is brand new for the ESPFA for 2021 and has aided the transition to allow us to deliver a successful education study programme that operates both in the classroom and online. Tom Gould outlined why the move to Microsoft Teams was needed and the benefits that came with it: “In order to implement a successful blended learning model, you need to have the platform to fulfil this. We therefore invested into Microsoft Teams, which saw every one of our learners, staff members and management team receive their own personal education account. Learners have access to the full Microsoft package and all the applications that come with this. Microsoft Teams allow learners to attend all their online sessions, complete all their assignments and access resources through the platform, allowing for greater flexibility, support, communication, and assistance in their learning. Essentially, learners can be anywhere in the world and still have access to their education.”

The first seven weeks of this year’s education programme has seen the students studying some challenging and engaging units in their BTEC level 3 in Sport course work. Lewis Moore details what units he has been teaching in the first-half term: “The first-year students have enjoyed learning about developing coaching skills because they find it easier to relate to managers and players within the Premier League which is often easier to understand because of their passion relating to football. The second-year students have enjoyed understanding more on nutrition because they have the opportunity to see what athletes sacrifice and it shows them how hard elite level performers have to try regarding their nutrition to improve performance.” Lucas Buckley echoed this and has thoroughly enjoyed applying what he has been learning to his preparation for training and games. He said: So far this year we have partially covered unit 8 (fitness testing) and have completed 2 assignments on unit 4 (nutrition for physical performance). I have personally enjoyed unit 4 the most as it is most relatable and applicable for me in everyday life, I also find it the most engaging as I take a personally interest in anatomy and how external factors (including nutrition) affects the body.”

We are so pleased with the continued hard work from all the tutors, coaches and students that have helped kickstart the 2021/22 season off with a bang and we are looking forward to seeing you back in action over the next few weeks!

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