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Weekly COVID-19 Update: 26/02/21

Update Covid-19: Advice to all students, parents and carers 26/02/2021

Dear students, parents and carers

Further to my last communication to you on 12th February 2021, I would like to update you on the current COVID-19 situation in the College. Please also find detailed below important information about the return to College arrangements from 8th March 2021, face coverings and home testing requirements.

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: 5 (Total cases reported in the last week – this gives an indication of the number of current cases)
During the last week all of these are cases reported by students or staff who are learning or working remotely due to lockdown.
Total cases: 78 (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)

Return to College from 8th March 2021

South Devon College currently remains open to vulnerable young people and the children of critical workers. 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. Online delivery or supported home learning will continue to be formally timetabled for all students until Friday 5th March 2021 inclusive.

Following the Government’s latest announcement, we now know that students will be able to return to onsite education from 8th March 2021, unless they are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable.  All students will be offered COVID-19 tests as they return. Where a test is taken, students may return to face-to-face education following their first negative test result.  We have the discretion to decide how to test students over the first week back. It is likely that on Monday 8th March we will test students that are due in College on Tuesday 9th, and follow this process throughout the week until all students have received their first test.

Students will attend College for their first test and then go home to await their result. If they receive a negative result, they can commence timetabled lessons the next day. For the second and third tests, there is not a requirement for a student to receive a negative before attending lessons.

After the initial programme of three tests in College, students will be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home. During onsite testing, students will be supervised as they undertake the lateral flow test. The student will swab themselves and the testing site staff will collect the swab, process the test and record the results.  Tests will be conducted weekly to reflect that the majority of our students are not in College 5 days a weeks. The purpose of supervised onsite testing, before moving to home testing, is so students have had the chance to familiarise themselves with self-swabbing. Testing remains voluntary but strongly encouraged.

To comply with testing requirements, we will be operating our lateral flow testing facility in the Sports Hall at Vantage Point from Monday 8th March. The Sports Hall facility will be open from 8th March-31st March, 8.30am until 3.30pm daily (6 hours). It will close daily 12.00pm-1.00pm. Through this we will process in excess of 1000 tests a day, operating 15 testing bays. Students will be provided with their results via text/email 30 minutes after they have undertaken the test.

Tutors will contact students directly to notify them of their testing and return to college arrangements for week commencing 8th March. 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 College will have a limited number of devices for use in the testing centre for any students without their own mobile phone.

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 old – 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 consentthis form must be completed by the parent or legal guardian.

Please complete one consent form for each child you wish to participate in testing.

Individuals with a positive Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test result will need to self-isolate in line with the stay-at-home guidance. Those with a negative LFD test result can continue to attend college unless they have individually been advised otherwise by NHS Test and Trace or Public Health professionals (for example as a close contact). If a student has recently (within 90 days) tested positive for COVID-19, they are likely to have developed some immunity. If a student has had a positive coronavirus (COVID-19) test in the last 90 days through NHS Test and Trace and been recorded as a positive case on the national system, they do not need to conduct the LFD test within that time period if they are asymptomatic. They are still required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive case, even if this is within the 90 day window.

Home Testing

Students will be supplied with Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kits to self-swab and test themselves twice a week at home. The College will shortly be taking delivery of these test kits. Full details of distribution arrangements will be provided as soon as possible.

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 for the virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19). In recognition of the new variants of COVID-19, from Monday 8th March 2021, whilst onsite and undertaking any activity, face coverings, must be worn by students and staff at all times when moving around the College, in corridors and communal areas and in all classrooms, workshops and offices 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. 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. Parents of students under 18 who are exempt, should email tutors to confirm the exemption. If this email is not received, we will expect a face covering to be worn or a recognised exemption lanyard or badge to be visible at all times. 

Exams and Assessment

Whilst we work through the most recent 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.

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.

Reporting positive Covid test 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 here or via our website www.southdevon.ac.uk.

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