AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


Covid-19 FET Practitioner Report Released

AHEAD is delighted to release 'How COVID-19 is Affecting Irish FET Practitioners and their Provision for Students with Disabilities' - a report gathering the findings of an AHEAD survey of FET practitioners.

The Covid-19 crises has turned our world upside down. It is hard to believe that just 12 weeks prior to the release of this survey, there was only rumblings on the airwaves about Covid-19 and not a single case had yet been identified on our shores.

In a short matter of weeks, the virus arrived and as the government reacted, everything changed. Our schools and colleges closed, our economy was placed in hibernation and our ability to be close to the ones we love was taken away.

Overnight, our further education and training (FET) practitioners were pushed by circumstance into remotely delivering the programmes that are so vital to the lives of our learners, without the chance to prepare, and with no access to the face to face support they might often seek from their peers.

For learners with disabilities, many of whom are in the identified Covid-19 ‘at risk’ categories, there are huge challenges in engaging in remote learning during this time and difficulties in how they access the support that is vital in their continuation and completion of FET programmes.

This survey report aims to shine a light on the difficulties that practitioners are experiencing in continuing to deliver those supports and their programmes more generally. It highlights key issues including a lack of engagement from a sizeable number of learners, a lack of continuity in the provision of disability support, difficulties for practitioners of juggling unfamiliar remote delivery with family responsibilities, a lack of practitioner experience with online delivery and the unsuitability of some programmes for online delivery (e.g. prison education, culinary courses).

But it also highlights the committed and innovative response of the FET community in their attempts to remain connected with their learners and showcases some of the ‘on the ground’ strategies that have worked.

Get the Full Covid-19 FET Practitioner Report »

Key Statistics

281 practitioners from 25 of the 26 FET programme types, with representation from practitioners in all ETBs, teaching programmes both non-accredited programmes and ones at all QQI levels 1 - 6 responded to this survey. The survey was carried out between April 9th and April 27th 2020 and the following key statistics were reported:

  • 23% of respondents said they usually have allocated hours for supporting learners with disabilities (high volume likely due to AHEAD’s connections with SEN teachers). Of this group, 44% said they had been unable to incorporate this role remotely. Sample comment: “There are a small number of students with disabilities that are not contactable and whose needs would be too high to be able to engage remotely.”
  • 19% of practitioners said they had not considered how learners with disabilities will interact with materials online in the move to remote learning and a further 13% said they were unsure. 68% say they have considered how learners with disabilities will interact with materials online. Sample comment: “We aim to follow a UDL approach whereby learners are supplied with clear guidelines as to how they should complete their assignments"
  • 10% of practitioners said they were not continuing to deliver their course remotely, 17% said they were partially continuing with a reduced timetable and 5% said they were in the process of trying to. 68% are continuing to deliver their programme remotely.
  • 62% of practitioners were aware of learners who were no longer able to continue their learning remotely due to their home set up or situation. Of those, the known reasons given for non-continuation are highlighted in the chart below with the top three reasons given being, ‘lack of access to a device’ (pc/laptop), ‘lack of access to broadband/internet’ and ‘family demands’.
  • On average, practitioners rated the level of continued engagement of their learners in their programmes as 5 out of 10  (10 being highly engaged). Practitioners from the programme types Youthreach (4.1/10), Prison Education (4.5/10) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (4.9/10) recorded the lowest levels of average practitioner rated learner engagement.
  • There are significant challenges for practitioners engaging in remote learning delivery. 90% of practitioners said that they had never taught online before while 10% had previous experience. 30% of practitioners share the laptop/computer they use at home to deliver coursework with other members of the family/housemates and 2% have no laptop/pc access at home. 77% of respondents’ working time is divided between teaching and other family/social responsibilities. The report highlights the commitment of FET practitioners in trying to maintain engagement with their learners and many good practices which are being implemented on the ground.

Get the Full Covid-19 FET Practitioner Report »

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Creating Inclusive Environments in Education and Employment for People with Disabilities

East Hall, UCD, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin.
T +353 1 592 1467 E ahead@ahead.ie W www.ahead.ie RCN 20025182