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Weekly COVID-19 Update: 12/02/21

Update Covid-19: Advice to all students, parents and carers 12/02/21

Dear students, parents and carers

Further to my last communication to you on 5th February, I would like to update you on the current COVID-19 situation in the College. 

REPORTED COVID-19 CASES: LATEST DATA  

The table below gives the most up-to-date picture of COVID-19 infections at South Devon College in all areas.  

Weekly cases: 3 (Total cases reported in the last week – this gives an indication of the number of current cases)   
Total cases: 73  (A running total of positive/presumed positive cases reported to the College by students and staff since the first case was reported on Wednesday 7th October 2020)   

Teaching and Learning

On Wednesday 27th January 2021, the Prime Minister announced that it will not be possible to resume face-to-face learning immediately after the February half-term and instead hopes it will be safe to commence the re-opening of schools and Colleges from Monday 8th March 2021. This is in response to the national public health data and pressure on NHS capacity.

If the Government achieves its target of vaccinating everyone in the four most vulnerable groups with their first dose by 15th February then those groups will have developed immunity from the virus around three weeks later, that is by 8th March. It is for this reason that the Government hope it will therefore be safe to commence the reopening of schools and Colleges from Monday 8th March 2021. Education settings, as well as students, parents and carers will be given at least two weeks’ notice to prepare for a return to face-to-face education.

South Devon College remains open to vulnerable young people and the children of critical workers after February half-term, as we are now. This is in line with the wider national lockdown measures to help minimise the spread of the virus and respond quickly to the new variant. In recognition that extended school and College attendance restrictions will have a huge impact on student’s learning, the Government will work with parents, teachers and schools/Colleges to develop a long-term plan to make sure students have the chance to make up their learning over the course of this parliament. We will of course update you when we know more.

Online delivery or supported home learning will continue to be formally timetabled for all students. The College will remain open to support our vulnerable learners. Please note that Spring Half Term break runs from Monday 15th to Friday 19th February 2021 inclusive, and there will be no scheduled teaching during that week. 

As you will know, we have a number of mitigating measures around the College, including wearing face coverings, an extensive cleaning regime, access to hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes and maintaining social distancing. We would like to remind all students and staff that despite having very limited numbers on site it is essential that we continue to wear face coverings, exercise good hygiene and maintain social distancing.

Our College testing programme is continuing to use lateral flow tests to identify cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) amongst staff and students who are asymptomatic.

Exams and Assessment

Whilst we await definitive guidance from qualification awarding organisations relating to final arrangements for exams and assessments this year, we expect all students to fully engage in their scheduled remote teaching, learning and assessment activities to ensure they develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours required for them to achieve and progress.  We expect that College information relating to individual student progress and attainment will be used to inform some final grades and so we stress the importance of keeping a strong focus on learning and completing the work and assignments set during this period of lockdown.

COVID-19 Lateral Flow Testing Programme at South Devon College

From Monday 11th January 2021, we have been conducting Lateral Flow tests for students and staff that have been present onsite for various reasons during the current lockdown.

The following principles apply to the current Lateral Flow Testing programme:

  1. Staff who are going to be onsite each week will be booking themselves in for a lateral flow test using the booking system link. If they are onsite for more than one day in the week, they will schedule two tests that week.
  2. Any students who are returning to College for the first time for authorised activities need to have two tests each ideally between three and five days apart. If tutors have agreed that students will be on site next week, it is likely that the student will be asked to conduct a lateral flow test. Tutors will advise students of their allocated time for testing.

A letter explaining the lateral flow testing process is available here. Prior to undertaking the lateral flow test, students need to provide consent. The online consent form is available  here.

For students younger than 16 years – this online consent form must be completed by the parent or legal guardian. For any student who does not have the capacity to provide informed consent, this form must be completed by the parent or legal guardian. Please complete one consent form for each child you wish to participate in testing.

The testing process takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes and results are sent to test subjects via text or email approximately 30 minutes after swabbing.

Students should bring their mobile phone to the test facility to undertake the NHS Test and Trace registration process.

The testing facility is currently open every weekday from 8.30am until 12.30pm.

At present asymptomatic Lateral Flow testing is not required before students or staff can access the College. 

Face Coverings

As mentioned in last week’s briefing, we have been closely monitoring Government guidance on the use of face coverings in Further Education settings. Face coverings are largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).

In recognition of the new variants of COVID-19, from Monday 15th February 2021, whilst onsite and undertaking any activity, outside of classrooms, face coverings, must be worn by students and staff at all times when moving around the College, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing cannot easily be maintained.   A face visor or shield may be worn in addition to a face covering but not instead of one.  This is because face visors or shields do not adequately cover the nose and mouth. The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

We appreciate that some students may be exempt from wearing face coverings. Students under 18 who are exempt, should ask their parents to email their tutor to confirm their exemption.

Reporting positive Covid results

Please remember to complete the ‘Out of hours Notification of a POSITIVE COVID-19 test result’ form to alert us if you, a member of your household or other close contact identified through Track & Trace, receive a positive test result whilst the College is closed. This online form is available via our main website www.southdevon.ac.uk  

Continued communication

We have been asked to share a letter from Dr Lincoln Sergeant, our new Director of Public Health. The letter can be accessed here.

As promised, we will continue to issue a weekly update of the number of confirmed cases within the College. The next update will be provided at 2pm on Friday 26th February 2021 (after the Half Term break).

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your ongoing support.

Yours sincerely,  

Laurence Frewin  

Principal and CEO  
South Devon College