Education Partnership North East continued to deliver interviews for all funded college provision including school leavers, adults applying for further education programme and higher education programmes. 

Recognising the importance of detailed advice and guidance of prospective students, and to complement the college’s approach to Virtual Open Event delivery, curriculum teams have been delivering interviews for prospective students on the phone following the national COVID-19 response.  

As a key part of the application journey Education Partnership North East wanted to ensure that students had the opportunity to speak to their teaching staff before starting and a need for teams to understand what support prospective students may need when they arrive.  All critical parts of the process of ensuring the right student is on the right course.  

In the weeks approaching the lockdown by government the group recognized that attendance at interviews was reducing, to 52% from a normal year to date average of 66%.  Families and students began isolation so protocols, and were making less trips out of the house, clearly identifying the need to adjust our normal practice for face-to-face interviews.  

As part of the protocol developed a digital solution to the recording of interviews via the MIS system was implemented and helped reduce the burden of manually processing when the college recognized absence from work or remote working could impact on staffing levels.  Students were also communicated with via text message in advance of their interview slot to discuss the new process.  Automated referrals for learning support and extra curriculum activities such as the Sports Development Centres were also implemented.  

In Creative subjects where the offer may be based partly on an auditions or demonstration of a portfolio, those students were invited to submit these digitally or as a video improving the reliability of the offer process.

  • Marketing team 
  • Curriculum staff 
  • Support staff including learning support

First full week of telephone interviews (3-8 April)

Northumberland College:

  • 183 expected interviews
  • 118 attended (64% attendance, an increase of 12% on period 2-20 March)

Sunderland College:

  • 162 expected interviews
  • 107 attended (66% attendance, an increase of 9% on period 2-20 March)

Hartlepool Sixth Form

  • 36 expected interviews
  • 17 attended (47% attendance, a decrease of 12% on period 2-20 March)

Feedback surveys were issued to students and overall experience was down across each college.

The results of the feedback in week one is being analysed to create improvements in experience.

Staff costs and purchase of bolt-ons for personal devices. 

  • Staff to receive detailed guidance and team by team training on new processes and systems.
  • Teaching staff encouraged to use 141 to ensure their numbers are withheld, college devices and solutions should be investigated as a preference.
  • Develop interview resource packs in advance and circulate to the students including links to virtual tours and image galleries.
  • Availability of alternative communication methods for interview records and outcomes for staff finding it difficult to access systems.
  • Personal follow-up to those who did not answer, instead of simply rescheduling.
  • Capture feedback on user-experience to inform improvements. 
  • Use of personal mobiles and devices – training offered to each curriculum team particularly around the use of capture of interview outcomes and some staff were reimbursed for the purchase of additional devices. Staff used 141 in advance of calls and students were sent texts explaining the call would be from a withheld number.  
  • New systems – training offered and alternatives put in place for those already over capacity whilst transferring to online learning.
  • Alternative solution – it’s a different, not a better way, of doing interviews. Face-to-face in person experiences offer students the opportunity to view curriculum spaces and immerse themselves in the learning environment. The drop in overall enjoyment clearly highlights this.  

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19