COVID 19 Updates

Please check this page for future updates regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the operation of the college. The most recent updates will be posted at the top of this page.

Further advice can be found at the following website https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

11/12/2020

Dear Parent/Carer

As we approach the end of term, I am writing to update you about the college’s approach to the current pandemic. Can I begin by thanking you for your patience and support in what has been a difficult time for everyone, not least our young people. At the beginning of the year, we had some tough decisions to make and a great deal of uncertainty about how the pandemic might develop or be controlled. With 2,500 staff and students, limited social space and the inability to have effective bubbles, we felt adjustments needed to be made to our delivery to minimise the risk to our students. At the same time we needed to deliver full programme hours and support their learning to the best of our ability. We instigated the streamed approach knowing that it was an effective way of delivering content whilst offering some protection against spreading the virus. We continue to be very impressed with how students have adapted to this new way of working and how they have responded to the different demands made upon them. Developing independence is a key skill at this age and we are finding that most students are coping well with this delivery method.

Much is still uncertain, and we probably have the worst of the winter weather to contend with, but we are also approaching key assessments and examinations for those students who complete their courses with us in 2021. We are constantly weighing the efficiency of our delivery with the quality of learning and progress of students against the need to maintain the highest health and safety standards. We feel that we have gained valuable experience about remote learning as well as how best to manage our college building during the pandemic, but we recognise that on site delivery is the most effective way to ensure the highest quality of learning, teaching and assessment.

With all this in mind, we have made the decision to begin to increase the number of students on site in January, but do not believe that we can return to full occupancy just yet. We have decided to invite the upper sixth to return to full time in January. LVI students will remain streamed and accessing a mixture of on site and remote learning. There may well be a spike caused by the Christmas break and we will need students to be extra careful in their behaviour. If we can manage the building and infection rates successfully I would hope the lower sixth could return to full time in due course.

This does mean that we will have stricter guidelines on how students operate in and around the building as this decision will lead to greater occupation and a return to full classes. We would ask for your support in encouraging students to follow our guidelines to keep themselves and others safe. We will be taking these measures very seriously and will not tolerate behaviour that puts others at risk. We will be sending a reminder to students about what they can do to minimise the risks to themselves and others.

I realise that many of our lower sixth students would also prefer to return to full onsite delivery as soon as possible. I am pursuing the opportunity to adopt a Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) procedure that may reduce the number of people who need to isolate as a result of track and trace. If we can successfully introduce this aspect of testing then I would be very optimistic about returning to full occupancy. This is an emerging possibility that I am vigorously pursuing. I will update you with further news, in the New Year, should we be successful in getting this off the ground.

In order to prepare the building and staff for this return to fuller occupancy we are bringing forward two INSET days to the 7th and 8th January. College resumes on site for students on 11th January but some students will be in on the 8th for an exam and there will be remote revision sessions for some vocational students on the 7th and 8th. We will make sure that students have all the information they need.

I understand the challenges facing our young people and how frustrating this year must be for them. Some I know are desperate to be back, full time, on site and some will be anxious about the prospect. Please be assured that we are trying to get the balance right and are constantly assessing our approach. May I take this opportunity to wish you all a safe, happy and peaceful Christmas and let us look forward to a better 2021.

Yours sincerely
Danny Pearson

30/03/2020

Dear Parent/Carer

As college has now been closed for over a week we wanted to thank you for your continued support.

Our staff are extremely grateful for the way so many students have been able to quickly adapt to the new distance learning arrangements. I hope that you can appreciate the challenges that we face regarding the setting of work for students. We continue to review this process to ensure it is balanced and appropriate. Everybody is doing their best under some trying circumstances.

As a community we must continue to follow government advice, especially with the ongoing restrictions regarding movement.

Thank you again for your continued support.

20/03/2020

Dear Parents/Carers

As parents/carers you will no doubt be anxious about the arrangements for awarding grades and assessments this summer. We wanted to share with you the latest announcements from the Department of Education.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/further-details-on-exams-and-grades-announced

As you will see things are not yet crystal clear and we will need time to gather further information and consider our actions. We are unable to answer any questions at this time but rest assured we will be in touch when things become clearer.

In the meantime our careers team would like to make parents/carers aware that they are still able to support students online. They will also send out a to do list on a Tuesday each week suggesting ideas of what students could be doing to keep their progression plans on track.

They can be contacted on [email protected]

With every good wish

19/03/2020

Good afternoon all,

Thank you for your patience in terms of waiting for updates and guidance. We are now in a better position to explain what will happen over the coming weeks while college is closed.

To simplify things below you will find a copy of the email that has now been sent to your son/daughter.

Studying at Home During the College Closure

The College has a duty to continue to support your education while the current period of closures is in place. This is the case for all students, both lower and upper sixth, on all qualifications.

We recognise that this may be difficult and present some challenges but we are confident that the best way to achieve this is to maintain, as near as possible, the existing college timetable and practices, and for students to work within their usual timetables and guided learning hours. In effect you will be studying remotely but with clear guidance from teachers at specific points everyday.

College will be closed to all students except those that fall within the category of ‘vulnerability’ as suggested by the government. Students within this category will be notified that they will be able to access the building but they DO NOT have to if they do not wish to. The college will be manned by a very small team to enable that group of students to study. All other students are expected to be working from home.

Below is a set of guidelines which hopefully explain what this will entail.

  1. Students should be engaged and on-task during their timetabled lessons and staff will be working on the assumption that students have access to only basic internet and email. All tasks and resources will be compatible with basic access to the internet.
  2. Staff will provide clear, written, instructions (via email or virtual learning platform i.e. Google classroom) about the work that needs to be completed during each lesson with deadlines. The relevant resources will be made accessible to students. Students who encounter any problems will be able to email their tutors or the college’s IT team [email protected] to explain the issue and find a solution.
  3. Homework or Independent learning tasks will be allocated, within the college guidelines of 5 hours/week per subject.
  4. Staff will be available to students, online, during their timetabled lessons to answer questions and/or give feedback, via email or VLE platform.
  5. Student work will be assessed and feedback will be given to students, in-line with normal working practices. Work completion and assessment grades will be recorded, tracked and reported on to parents/carers via the arranged subject reviews. Students and parents/carers will be able to access these via MyAquinas and the parent portal as normal.
  6. Staff should be available to answer student questions or give feedback in the timetabled lesson period.
  7. Staff will be expected to respond to student questions or queries within a reasonable timeframe but only within the college working day 9:00-15:50. You may wish to email staff outside of college hours but please don’t expect responses to questions outside the normal college day.
  8. Formal assessments will still be set and will be used to inform predicted grades and references for both year groups, and they will similarly inform decisions about lower sixth students progressing to upper sixth. Formal assessments will be returned in line with the existing college marking policy of 8 working days (BTEC, 15 working days).
  9. We will expect parents to email student information [email protected] to update college on days where you are unwell and cannot engage with that days lessons. This is exactly the same as if you were unable to physically attend college. Staff will inform parents/carers of students who are not engaging or failing to submit work set. As stated in an earlier point failure to engage will have an impact on predicted grades, references and in the case of lower sixth students, their progression to upper sixth.
  10. In the event of staff illness, staff will follow college policy in setting guided study on MyAquinas.

Our intention is to operate our usual college policies and practices as far as we are able:

  • The college counsellors will be contacting students currently using the service directly.
  • If you have any safeguarding concerns this should be reported to a member of staff, ideally Andy Bailey [email protected] or Diane Greenidge [email protected] as soon as possible via email.
  • Provision will be made for students in receipt of free college meals and bursary. You will receive funds into your bank accounts.

We will continue to update you as the situation develops and once we have been made aware of decisions around grades and UCAS.

19/03/2020

We are currently planning how the college will respond to yesterday’s announcements.

As you can imagine there is much to decide and then communicate.

The Department for Education had guaranteed that they will work with schools and colleges and Ofqual to ensure that students get the qualifications they need.

Arrangements for university entry are unclear at the present time.

As soon as we have more information we will get back to you.

Thank you for your support and co-operation at this difficult and unprecedented time. We are all doing our best to provide some continuity for our students over the next few months.

18/03/2020

The college remains open as per government and National Health England advice.
In preparation for partial or full closure we have asked students to complete a short survey that they can access on their MyAquinas home page, we would appreciate your support in asking them to complete this as soon as possible.

We would also ask that you reinforce with your son/daughter that they should be accessing their college email daily so any issues they may have with their email can be dealt with.

The college has made the decision to cancel ALL trips and visits up to the end of May. Students will receive a full refund for any trip or visit they have paid for. We are working hard to get this to you as soon as possible.

We also want to reassure parents/carers of students in receipt of Bursary and/or FSM that we will continue to support them. Once again any college closure will be communicated via the usual means of text and email, supported by social media.

Thank you for your ongoing support

17/03/2020

The college remains open and we continue to follow advice that comes to us directly from the government and National Health England. We continue to reinforce key messages about personal hygiene, hand washing and ‘catching, killing and binning’ coughs and sneezes.

We have developed a risk assessment for this situation and the Leadership Team is reviewing advice regularly.

We have a contingency plan should full or partial closure be required. This will ensure a continuity of education for all. In order to enable further planning we have decided to suspend our Core Studies. This means that student will no longer need to attend 10:10, Assembly and Ethics lessons. This will allow all staff and students to focus on their subjects and prepare for future eventualities, whilst cutting down on social contact. We would also ask that students further reduce social contact by leaving the building once they have finished lesson.

We understand you may make decisions regarding attendance according to government advice. To clarify, students and staff should not attend college if they show symptoms of the virus (new, persistent cough or a high temperature) and it is important to follow the advice issued by Public Health England.

Any college closure will be communicated via the usual means of text and email, supported by social media.

16/03/2020

As a precautionary measure, the College has taken the decision to postpone Lower Sixth Consultation Evening on Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th March.

The L6 classes have recently undergone a Subject Review, which all parents should have access to on MyAquinas. This review will have comments from the class tutor. Instructions on how to access these reviews can be found via this link http://www.aquinas.ac.uk/parents/my-aquinas/

Should you have any academic concerns please email the tutor, they will do their best to reply as soon as possible but please be patient as tutors are diligently preparing lessons should government guidelines change.

The tutors email addresses are in the format [email protected]

We will also be postponing our After Aquinas Event on Thursday 26th March, as this would involve a large number of visitors to the College.

Our primary objective is to ensure the wellbeing of our students. We will continue to take advice from the Department of Education and Public Health England on COVID19 and will keep you informed of any other changes.

The Department for Education is not currently advising against domestic trips (residential and non-residential) for children under 18, therefore at this time all domestic trips will go ahead, we will contact students and parents/carers by email and update the guidance on our website as the situation develops.