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Pregnancy, parenthood and childcare - CS072206

A midwifery student was expecting a baby in June 2020, their final year of study. The student made plans to do additional clinical hours early in the year and complete their academic work earlier than usually required.

But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the provider made changes to the course requirements at short notice and some academic modules were replaced with alternatives. The balance between academic study hours and hours in clinical practice was changed so that students had to spend more time in clinical practice. These changes were in line with guidance issued by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to help support the NHS workforce. The UK government published guidance about shielding from the virus that listed pregnancy as a reason for shielding. Shielding students were given options to take temporary leave from their programme of studies, or to pause their placement elements. 

The student complained that it was unfair to have removed the academic modules that they had already completed work for in advance of their submission dates. The student said that changing the balance by increasing the number of clinical hours at a time when pregnant students were prevented from carrying out clinical hours was discriminatory. The student’s baby was born earlier than expected, and the provider completed some paperwork about a leave of absence. As a result, Student Finance England contacted the student asking them to repay some of the funding they had received. The student also complained about this. 

The provider rejected the student’s complaint and they complained to us. 

We decided that the complaint was Not Justified 

We recognised that the situation had been stressful for the student. They had worked very hard to prepare for the arrival of their child, and this was disrupted because of the changes made in response to the pandemic. We were satisfied that the changes the provider had made were necessary and that it was reasonable that the provider was unable to accept work that the student had prepared because those modules were no longer running. 

The provider had tried to find ways for the student to complete remote clinical hours but unfortunately the NHS placement was not able to support this. However it later emerged that some of the student’s earlier clinical hours had not been logged correctly and once this had been corrected, the student was able to graduate as they had originally planned.  

The provider had also been trying to act in the student’s best interests when it completed the financial paperwork. When this had unintended consequences, the provider had acted swiftly to put things rights.   

We made suggestions about how the provider could have improved some aspects of its communications with the student. 

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