Shrewsbury colleges eagerly awaiting return to lessons amid robust testing and contact rules

Robust testing rules and flexible work timetables are providing confidence at one college group as students prepare to return this week.

Students all face the same way as part of the new restrictions
Students all face the same way as part of the new restrictions

Shrewsbury Colleges Group is asking students to test for coronavirus three times in the next two weeks before they are given home testing kits to use twice a week at home.

One-way systems and changed break times will be imposed again to minimise contact, and more food outlets will be opened around campuses to reduce queueing.

Principal James Staniforth said that the measures imposed between September and December last year had given college leadership extra confidence and reassurance in reopening this week.

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"We have invested quite a lot of money in all aspects of this," he said.

"We have a really good level of confidence; doing the testing just adds to that.

"Teachers and students have just done a brilliant job during lockdown.

"We've learned in one year what we would normally learn in five years.

"I'm delighted students are going to be coming back into college. They're doing brilliantly working remotely, but they miss the face-to-face contact.

"Inevitably there are people who just want to get on with it, and there are people who are really nervous."

Tests

There will be a phased return to college to allow for mass lateral flow testing of students and staff for Covid-19 infection to take place during the weeks commencing March 8 and March 15. Students will be tested on three occasions during this two-week period.

Once students have been tested three times, they will be provided with self-swab test kits to allow them to test themselves twice a week at home.

Students will be invited into one of the three college campuses to take the lateral flow tests and they will be contacted directly with details of the day and time of their Covid-19 test. The college will facilitate travel to the campuses through additional colleges bus services.

Face-to-face learning on campus will then begin from March 22. During the two weeks of testing, teachers will set work for students to complete in a flexible manner during the week, but there will be no timetabled lessons.

Teachers and tutors will be available to support students at agreed times. In addition, there will be activities to support student’s wider development and progression, including work on careers and university applications.

Vulnerable students will continue to attend college during the weeks commencing March 8 and 15 as per current arrangements.

Students and staff who are not exempt will be required to wear face coverings during lessons in addition to in communal areas, until at least the end of Easter.

Adult learners will also be able to return to college from this week with a balance between on-site and remote learning.

Mike Needham at the English Bridge campus' lateral flow testing area

College buses will run as normal from today and will facilitate travel to the campuses through additional colleges bus services. If students do not usually travel to college by bus they will be able to book to use the service.

Bus routes will operate on each of these days for those that are current bus users.

College bus route information can be found at scg.ac.uk/students/travelling-to-college.

Mr Staniforth said: "We’re pleased that the Government have given colleges the discretion to phase the return of students to campus. This autonomy will allow us to bring back students to face-to-face learning in a safe and secure way.

"We believe that the managed approach that we’re taking is clear, easy to understand as well as implement and will offer reassurance to students, parents/carers and staff. This process will solve the logistical challenges of trying to test, teach and provide support functions as well as avoiding the anxiety of students sitting in classes awaiting Covid-19 test results.

"We would like to thank students and their parents/carers for their patience and understanding during this time."

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