Since the first lockdown and during the time at level 2, all the schools providing ACE that we contacted, reported an increased demand for their courses.

Jo Nuttall from Waiheke Adult Education says that post the first lockdown in Auckland they saw an uptake in courses across the spectrum and adapted their programme to meet community needs: “Our new initiatives [prior to the second lockdown] have included: a collaborative community project with a range of courses in conservation skills to up-skill the community for a projected increase in work opportunities in this sector; a workshop series for small business owners to offer networking opportunities and peer support for responding to Covid; and additional courses for businesses and employment skills.”

Linda Melrose from Onehunga High School reported significantly increased class numbers during level 1, with a huge influx of new learners. She said that people also expressed their appreciation for online courses being available during the lockdown. “Having the ability to connect during this first lockdown was hugely valuable.

Once classes moved back to a classroom setting it was important to highlight the value of blended learning within each programme and many of the tutors have taken up the challenge of using more digital technology and equipment than ever before. Where appropriate this has enabled teaching and learning to rise to the challenge of change. The most interesting thing was how empowering this has been to all.”

Nigel Sutton from Wellington High School Community Education Centre says that they have seen a significant increase in demand for what they are calling home and garden style courses: “Everything from cooking to sewing has surged in popularity and so we are offering a wealth of courses to meet this demand. We have offered free two-hour talks on sleeplessness and managing anxiety and all the spaces in these filled overnight. We are also offering a free one-day course on Acing the Interview. This was equally popular and also filled overnight. We are seeing increased demand for practical and productive courses – where students learn a skill but also leave with something they have made, such as Create an Age-Defying Face Serum, Sewing a Bag, or Lampshade Making. I think that in level 1 people were seizing the opportunity to come together and learn new things.”

Anne Cave from Selwyn Community Education writes that post the first lockdown they had a huge surge in interest in their face-to-face classes: “People were saying that they were sick of screen time and were so pleased to engage with other learners. Our first weekend open was so full of joy! One person said she had tried to do an art course online and while it gave her some skills there was nothing like asking the tutor directly for personalised tips and tricks. To compensate for all the missed classes, we have opened more weekend classes and will be running classes through the holidays. We have large waiting lists for lots of classes so we are having to open for more hours to accommodate them. We responded quickly to community needs by introducing several new courses to give people advice and skills on how to find jobs in a Post Covid workplace.”

Andrea Cameron from Rutherford College says that once the panic and chaos settled, they were able to provide free PD sessions for tutors during the lockdown, so they could learn how to adapt to teaching classes online. Many courses took up the opportunity and were able to provide ESOL, foreign language, business and budgeting courses online: “Once the restrictions were lifted, we saw a huge uptake in courses across the spectrum. It has been one of the busiest winter months that we have seen for many years. Our courses were filled within days and waiting lists were enormous. Where possible we have adapted our programmes to meet the community needs, however, in some instances we have not had the resources to meet the demand. We are also seeing more and more people who don’t meet the TEC funding criteria wanting to upskill so they can apply for new jobs. Others want to attend classes for their own sanity and wellbeing – but they cannot afford to pay self-funding fee costs. Because we believe that lifelong learning should be available to everyone, we have set up weekly auto payment plans so they don’t miss out. It is an added workload for our limited administration resources, but it’s well worth it if it makes people happy and they are given the opportunity to participate.”

The Risingholme Community Centre, in Christchurch, which delivers TEC-funded ACE courses including at a number of schools – also saw a huge influx of enrolments in Term 3. Lynda Megson, the Director, says that during the Term 3 enrolment period their popular courses were filling up much faster than usual: “So we had more courses with waitlists than previous years and many of the enrolments have been from new learners who have not enrolled with Risingholme previously. With no places available in Term 3 courses learners have opted to enrol in Term 4 to avoid missing out – so some of these courses are full already. Many of the enrolments have been from new learners who have not enrolled with Risingholme previously.”

Hagley Adult Literacy Centre (Hagley College) uses their TEC ACE funding mainly for literacy, numeracy, ESOL and workplace communication courses. They are delivered from venues across Christchurch. Joanna Fox, the Manager at the Literacy Centre, says that the lockdown highlighted the need for improved digital literacy skills, especially amongst their ESOL learners. “As a result, we are offering four new ESOL digital literacy courses. These have been very well attended. We have also experienced increased interest from our workplace learners who want to improve their computing knowledge. The focus for these courses has been on learning about on-line communication platforms such as MS Teams and Zoom, as well as internet shopping, e-mailing, and basic word processing skills.”