We hope that you have enjoyed the summer break and are ready and enthusiastic about the new academic year. As restrictions have been eased, many of us have been starting to experience those things we have been missing for many months. As you are probably aware, there have also been significant changes to guidelines for schools and colleges which are summarised below.
Summary of new guidance
These are explained in detail on the attached slideshow Info for Students Sept 21 – Covid19 Safety Arrangements – Please read these slides carefully so you know what to expect when returning to college in September.
Aim 1 – less disruption to face to face teaching
The new guidance prioritises face to face education, which is especially important given the disruption students have faced during the pandemic. There remains risk everywhere, every day, in all that we do and thankfully, for the majority of young people, COVID-19 is a mild to moderate illness. Time lost from education also has a significant impact on pupil’s heath, wellbeing and life chances and so we must balance these risks.
Because of this new focus, we will no longer send home close contacts of Covid-19 automatically which should significantly reduce the number of students needing to study at home. Equally, there will be no more ‘bubbles’ or social distancing requirements to allow for normal student interaction to take place. Students and staff will be able to choose whether or not to wear a mask and we will maintain good ventilation and other hygiene measures. However, if you do have COVID-19 symptoms and /or test positive, you must isolate as before until your period of quarantine is over and notify the college as soon as possible (07801173168 / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Aim 2 – reducing the risks through testing and vaccination
We know that vaccination is effective in protecting people against COVID-19 and that more and more people have been vaccinated. Now that vaccination has been opened to 16-18 year olds, we are strongly encouraging all students who feel comfortable getting a vaccination to do so as this will further protect students, staff and our wider families and friends.
We also know that lateral flow testing can pick up asymptomatic people who did not even know they were infected, and that this can limit or halt transmission. We are therefore offering on-site ‘assisted testing’ for all students who consent to this at the start of term (see slide 4 on guidance PowerPoint). One you have completed the on-site testing programme, staff and students are encouraged to self-test and report regularly at home (using the tests that we supply)
Limitations of guidance
We have seen what has happened in Scotland where schools and colleges returned before those in England and Wales. Numbers have risen steadily, and we know the same could happen here. We’ll continue to do all we can to reduce risk and provide a safe environment, within the new guidelines, but we will make further changes should they be necessary. If you are especially vulnerable and / or have been unable to have a vaccine, we can take other specific measures to protect you so please speak to your tutor or to student support who will be able to refer you to someone who can help.