Return to College Update - Monday 8th March

Thu, 25/02/2021 - 13:37

From Monday 8th March ALL students will be able to return to on-site education across our three campus sites.

Every student aged 16 to 19 (or 19 to 25 with an EHCP) is requested to attend in person, and will undertake the majority of their planned hours on site.

Adult learners may also return on site. Our staff will continue to judge the right balance between on-site and remote delivery for adult students in order to provide high quality education and training. There may be occasions when particular arrangements are required in specific curriculum areas according to student and curriculum need. This will mean that there may be different arrangements in place in different parts of the college.  Unless you are requested to study remotely by your lecturer – please attend your normal timetable on site.

The Department for Education (DfE) guidance states that nationally education settings have been prioritised for re-opening above other parts of the economy reflecting the importance of education. Individual colleges can only restrict attendance on site if they have written instruction from Public Health England.

In-College COVID Testing

The College was instructed by DfE to establish a Lateral Flow Test testing regime from January and we have since successfully conducted nearly 1,600 individual tests. The Government guidance for in-college testing, as part of the 8th March return date, is as follows:

For the period Mon 8th, Tue 9th, Wed 10th, Thu 11th, Fri 12th, & Mon 15th East Durham College will run testing centres at all three sites between the hours of 8.30am to 5pm.

The College will offer students the opportunity to take 3 tests, 3 days apart (I.E. Mon, Thur, Mon).

It should be noted that testing is voluntary, but encouraged, and the advance taking of these tests is NOT a condition of being able to return to College. These Lateral Flow Tests are designed to pick up positive asymptomatic cases – if you have any COVID symptoms, please DO NOT come to college and you should register to get a PCR test at an official COVID testing centre.

After Mon 15th March, the College will no longer be conducting mass testing on site. Instead testing will then be in the form of home testing.

Details around the distribution of these home test kits are still to be confirmed but it is believed that test kits will be delivered to College and made available for individuals to collect 2 test kits per week. Each home test kit will have instructions on how to register, carry out, process and report the test results. It is understood that consent forms may still be required when collecting home test kits but are definitely required for any testing conducted at College. If you are under 16 you will need parental consent to take a test, please contact Student Services for more information.

Face Coverings

We can't wait to have students back on 8th March, but we need you all to be aware of the new rules regarding face coverings at ALL college campuses.

Firstly, face coverings in all communal spaces are now MANDATORY, unless you have a medical exemption or legitimate reason for not wearing one. Please speak to your Progression Coach if you feel you have a genuine exemption from face coverings.

Secondly, teaching areas are set out in such a way to comply with Government-recommended control measures and would not normally require the wearing of a mask in class. By following the existing measures we have in place in classrooms, students sat side-by-side and facing the same way is fine. Typical classroom lessons should not require facemasks, However, it is when students group together or they face each other that they would need to wear a mask, unless they were 2m apart or socially distanced. Class tutors will determine if the wearing of masks is required through their own risk assessments and class activities.

The College is following the DfE recommended guidance on face covering for the rest of this term:

“We (The Department for Education) recommend that face coverings should be worn by adults and students when moving around the premises, in corridors and communal areas - and in classrooms or workshops where social distancing cannot easily be maintained - except where exemptions apply. Face coverings do not need to be worn by students when outdoors on the premises. This does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example during sports lessons and physical activity. More information can be found in the DfE face coverings guidance. Transparent face coverings, which may assist communication with someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, can also be worn. There is currently very limited evidence regarding the effectiveness or safety of transparent face coverings, but they may be effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Those who rely on visual signals for communication, or communicate with or provide support to such individuals, are currently exempt from any requirement to wear face coverings at the setting or in public places. Face visors or shields should not routinely be worn as an alternative to face coverings. They may protect against droplet spread in specific circumstances but are unlikely to be effective in preventing aerosol transmission. In an education setting environment they are unlikely to offer appropriate protection to the wearer and should only be used after carrying out a risk assessment for the specific situation. The requirement to wear face coverings in classrooms will be introduced for a limited time until Easter, and as with all measures, we will keep it under review and update guidance at that point.”

Students will of course still also be required to wear face covering when using public transport, including the Arriva ED bus services.

Clinically Vulnerable Students

The guidance for clinically vulnerable students remains unchanged and they can attend college adhering to the onsite risk assessments in place.

Some clinically vulnerable students have been identified as being required to shield due to their health conditions, these students will have received notification of this from the government and should follow the guidance within this notification.  

Extremely Clinically Vulnerable Students

Students who fall into the Extremely Clinically Vulnerable group are being advised to continue to shield until 31st March.

East Durham College’s COVID Policy

The full details of EDC’s latest COVID policy update can be found here:

https://www.eastdurham.ac.uk/covid-19-policy