Safely returning to campus - 16-19 students
Details on our plans to return to campus following the Prime Minister's announcement.
As students will be aware, last Monday the Prime Minister outlined his roadmap out of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is much to be optimistic about following this announcement and since then, UCEN Mancheser has been assessing how we respond to this in a managed and measured way whilst continuing to keep your safety and that of our students firmly as our number one priority.
Part of the Prime Minister’s announcement signalled that educational settings will reopen from Monday 8 March. Having received the government guidance for how this should be managed late last Monday night we have now completed the process of working through it and developed a plan for safely welcoming you back to campus on a managed basis.
We have outlined the plan we have in place and everything you need to know below, but in summary this update includes important information on:
- Your timetable from Monday 8 March
- On campus safety measures to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19
- Asymptomatic Covid-19 testing.
This update is very detailed and we would ask you to take some time to read through the information as it is important that you understand how the College is managing your return. We will also be writing to your parents/carer with this information.
The key points are:
- You will return to the blended learning timetable that you had in place before Christmas from 8 March
- Any Covid-19 catch up sessions you undertake will continue to be delivered remotely
- All our safety measures including 2 metre social distancing, hand sanitizer stations, increased ventilation and one-way systems remain in place
- The wearing of a face covering does not mean that 2 metre-distancing can be ignored. It will remain in place.
- You must wear a face covering at all times on campus, including in lessons, unless you are exempt or where the lesson requires you to remove it (sport/dance etc)
- Face shields/visors are no longer considered to offer sufficient protection and should not be worn on site
- Students who have received a letter from the NHS saying that they are CEV should not attend College until 31 March at the earliest and continue to access their lessons on-line
- You should book a Covid-19 test at one of the College test centres, ideally for your first day back on site (or as close to this as you can get an appointment) and every 3-5 days until you have done 3 tests on site
- Book your test by following this link: Book Your Test
- After a couple of weeks of doing supervised tests on site, you will be provided with kits to self-test at home
- If you test positive in either the on-site test, or in a self-test, the College’s track and trace system will start and you should self-isolate according to the Government guidance.
A blended learning experience
Until Monday 8 March, learning will continue to take place fully online for all students. The only exception to this is where individual students who would benefit from support have been invited to site at our Shena Simon and Openshaw sites. This invitation only support will continue until 8 March.
From Monday 8 March we will then resume the blended learning model that was in place during the autumn term. This will see you receive a combination of on-site face-to-face and remote lessons.
As such you should follow the schedule of on-campus and online lessons as per the timetable you were following immediately prior to the Christmas break. You should return to campus on the first day you would have a face to face lesson. For example, if your timetable doesn’t have a face-to-face lesson until a Wednesday then the first time you should return to campus is Wednesday 10 March.
Please note that if you are taking part in Covid-19 catch-up lessons these will continue to take place online. If these sessions are directly after a face-to-face session on campus, then you can do these remote sessions in the library.
If you have been provided with a device to support you in accessing your lessons remotely, you may find it helpful to continue to bring these into College to complete your work electronically.
For students who have been notified by their GP that they are considered to be Clinically Extremely Vulnerable, government guidelines state you should continue to follow shielding advice until 31 March at the earliest. As such you should not attend campus. You should let your achievement tutor know if you are clinically extremely vulnerable if you have not already done so and we will make appropriate arrangements for you to be able to continue your education at home during this period
Maintaining a safe and welcoming learning environment
The College appreciates that some of you may have concerns about returning to campus so we'd like to reassure you that the health, safety and wellbeing of you and your tutors remains our number one priority. As such the range of safety measures that were in place last term will be staying in place, while also providing you with a welcoming learning environment.
While the majority of the measures will remain the same as last term (I have outlined these below as a reminder), in line with latest government guidance students and staff must now wear face coverings at all times while on campus, including in lessons/practical sessions, communal areas and libraries, except while sitting down to eat or drink in one of our refectories.
The wearing of a face covering does not mean that 2 metre distancing can be ignored. It will remain in place.
Students should also note that the latest government guidance is that face shields/visors are no longer considered to offer sufficient protection to be classed as an adequate face coverings. As such you should instead wear a fitted, fabric face covering. Students that have an exemption from wearing a face covering do not need to wear one. If you have an exemption you need to speak to a member of the student experience team who will talk to you about this and ask you to wear a lanyard, where you are happy to do so, so we don’t need to keep asking you why you are not wearing a face covering.
The new guidance also states that, where the wearing of face coverings adversely impacts the learning experience exemptions can be applied. We are currently reviewing our curriculum with course tutors and where the criteria is met, this exemption will be granted accordingly for specific tasks, for example, sport or dance (where the wearing of a face covering makes it difficult to undertake the physical aspects of a lesson). You will be informed of any sessions, modules or activities where face coverings do not need to be worn but otherwise please wear your face covering at all times until you are told to remove it for an activity.
The government has committed to reviewing the need for face coverings in lessons at regular intervals the first of which falls during the upcoming Easter holiday. Should they change this position we will update you accordingly.
All our other safety measures including 2 metre social distancing, hand sanitizer stations, increased ventilation and one-way systems remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission on our campuses. As a result of high compliance with these measures the number of positive cases in our College was manageable, and in the weeks before Christmas were low. During the first term we were able to quickly isolate individuals where needed and minimise the number of people required to self-isolate. Given new variants of the virus are now in circulation, we will be keeping windows open and ventilation on, meaning that you may need to wear suitable warm clothing for your lessons.
We are confident that these measures were effective at preventing the spread of the virus on campus and the evidence we gathered suggests that any positive cases were largely passed in settings in the community/home. As I am sure you can appreciate, now is not the time to relax this approach, especially as there is now light at the end of the tunnel with the rapid progress being made with the vaccination programme.
Asymptomatic Covid-19 testing
You should not attend campus if you have any Covid-19 symptoms (high temperature, new continuous cough, loss of taste and smell) and should instead isolate at home and book a test via the NHS.
You may have also seen that the government has committed to providing all college students with asymptomatic Covid-19 tests on their return to campus. This is aimed at reducing disruption to learning for students and staff who need to self-isolate, and to help identify asymptomatic people (individuals that have the virus but display no symptoms) so that they can self-isolate and help prevent the spread of Covid-19. It also gives you the opportunity to practice doing a test in a supervised environment before home testing kits are provided to you later in March.
As part of this commitment you will be offered a total of three Covid-19 tests on your return to campus. Once you have done these supervised tests you will be given testing kits to undertake two tests at home each week.
As you may be able to appreciate, setting up test facilities on our campus is a challenging undertaking, as we will need to undertake over 1,000 tests each day. To manage this flow, we have set up an easy to use booking system via MS Teams. You follow the link provided below and complete the steps to select a test appointment, which also asks you to confirm you are consenting to have the test and that you have read our privacy notice. These appointments have been arranged so we don’t overload the test facility and will avoid queues developing.
You should try to book your first test for your first day back on campus, and then book the 2nd and 3rd tests, ideally 3-5 days apart (but only on the days when you are timetabled to be on campus for face-to-face lessons and only at the site you regularly attend). If there are no appointments on your first day back, you should book for the next available test. If you can only book a slot during your scheduled lesson you should do so, as tutors will be flexible in excusing you to leave the lesson to go and receive your test.
You can book your tests here: Book Your Test
Once you have had your test you can return to your class and resume normal activities. You will receive the result – positive or negative or invalid – from the NHS test and trace service. If you test positive you will receive an immediate text from the college. You should keep your phone with you at all times. This text will tell you to make your way to the first aid room on site, where you will be supported to get home safely.
More detail and guides will be available and issued to you this week, before your return on the 8 March 2021.
Following this initial testing you will then be provided with two tests a week to be taken at home, 3-5 days apart. The government has indicated that you should notify both the NHS and the College of your results – both positive and negative. We are currently reviewing the government guidance on this and will be putting in place a system for you to collect the tests from the library and information about how you record these results. These home testing kits will not be provided until 15 March, at this earliest, when we are due to take delivery of the tests from the Department for Education. As soon as this is finalised, we will update you with details of the arrangements we have made accordingly.
The College strongly encourages you to take up this offer. Whilst it is not compulsory, it will help us to keep you and others safe on campus and able to continue accessing your studies in College.
Support for you
We fully appreciate that many of you may be finding things difficult in the current circumstances and that changes issued at short notice can be unsettling. As such I just wanted to briefly remind you that you can find details of all the support that is available to you on our website.
Our remote support provision will remain in place up until Monday 8 March at which point we will move to offering support both on campus and remotely via our Careers and Welfare Team.
Initially, we will continue with the pause on work placements on employer premises but we will let you know as soon as we are in a position, working with employers, for these to resume.
You may have heard that the Government has just announced how examinations/qualifications will be awarded this year. You will receive a separate letter telling you what this means for you in the next couple of days.
We can’t wait to see you
We understand that these are challenging and worrying times but please rest assured that we are taking every step possible to maintain a welcoming and safe learning environment when you return, while keeping the health and wellbeing of our students and our staff, our number one priority.
We are looking forward to welcoming you back and helping you achieve your full potential.