Covid 19 – Learning Update

Spring Term 2021

As the situation is constantly evolving and there are many unknowns, the information outlined below comes with the caveat that it could all change fairly quickly. We will continue to send parents regular bulletins and will update this page as we know more.

Our priority is to ensure our young people continue to learn, giving them the knowledge and skills they need to progress to the next level. We are working closely with Public Health England, GCC and other local agencies and will continue to take their advice. We are also in regular conversation with the Sixth Form College’s Association allowing us to benefit from shared experience. As Government and Ofqual announcements are published, we will make sure students and parents get the information they need through our regular updates.

We know that receiving face-to-face education is best for young people’s mental health and for their educational achievement. Now that we are back on site, remote learning will only be available for those who need to isolate because they are extremely vulnerable, have Covid symptoms or a positive test.

Now we have returned to face-to-face learning, students who need to isolate due to testing positive for Covid-19 or having being identified as a close contact through track and trace, will be able to access their lessons remotely. Please note, close contacts who test negative with the LFD test will be permitted to attend their classes.

To enable remote learning, the College will use Microsoft Teams for lessons and breakout groups. We consider this to be a safe environment on the understanding that students and staff follow the code of conduct for remote learning. Guidance and training videos on how to use MS Teams is available on your CCO page (Cirencester College On-line, the student intranet).

To support remote learning, teachers will continue to put notes and resources for each lesson on to Moodle and MSTeams.

Lateral Flow Device testing is available in college. Once the initial testing phase has been completed, students and staff will be given home test kits which should be carried out twice per week. Where tests continue to be negative, students should attend their lessons as normal.

Students and staff who test positive with the LFD test, should isolate accordingly. Where a student is identified as being a close contact of a positive Covid case, they will also need to isolate.

If a member of staff or student tests positive using a home test kit, they should seek a confirmatory PCR test and then proceed according to the result.

Teachers will use MSTeams to maintain communication with learners. Students can monitor their progress and feedback through their CCO page. Parents can see information such as their young person’s attendance and predicted grades by logging in to Parent Zone. Parents evenings will continue as scheduled. At any point a student or parent can contact their tutor, progression tutor or pastoral lead by clicking the link on their CCO page. Students can also use the smiley/sad faces on their CCO page to let us know what is going well and where they have concerns.

The College recognises that ‘digital poverty’ can create significant barriers to participation in digital learning, requiring additional support or alternative approaches to help maintain an inclusive learning experience.

We can help to overcome barriers to digital access for our young people by:

  • Distributing college laptops for those without access to a computer; students should contact JourneyTeam@cirencester.ac.uk if they wish to take advantage of this service.
  • Providing printed resources, such as textbooks and workbooks, to structure learning, supplemented with other phone calls/emails with your teacher to keep you on track or answer questions about work.
  • Through the Governments ‘help with technology’ scheme, we will request 4G wireless routers for students on Free School Meals or in receipt of vulnerable of discretionary bursary funding, whose household do not have broadband access and are unable to afford to acquire it.
  • Alternatively, we can apply for mobile data available from some network providers. Visit the page below to find out if you are eligible and which networks are participating. I would advise that you look at the offer your network is providing to make sure that it works for you.Increasing data allowances on mobile devices to support disadvantaged children – Get help with technology – GOV.UK (education.gov.uk)If you would like us to apply for increased data on your behalf, please let us have the information they have requested by using the Increased data request form here.

For students doing GCSEs in English and maths, who need more help due to Covid-19, the College is providing additional 1:1 and small group tuition to support their learning.

Where a young person has an EHCP, our Academic Support team have discussed with you and your parents the best individual approach for you. Your Learning Support member will continue to help with your learning. Where you are working remotely, they will join your lesson through MSTeams and give you the support you need. You can communicate with them through Teams as required.

As an apprentice, you will continue to access support through MSTeams. Whether you are in work, working at home or have been furloughed, we will work with you to complete your learning, ensuring you stay on track to achieve at a high level and on time.

You will have the email address of your coach and can use the e-portfolio to message them for help as required. Each apprentice has a nominated progress reviewer who is their pastoral lead and they can be contacted via email, phone or MSTeams at any time. Learning resources are on the e-portfolio and/or sent via email, as is normal. In addition to your coaching sessions, we are running group workshops via MSTeams.

Our adult learners who are on funded programmes, studying towards an exam or assessment, are back in college at their regular scheduled time. If you have any concerns, please contact adult.education@cirencester.ac.uk

Our leisure courses are scheduled to resume from Monday 7th June 2021.

As you know GCSEs, AS and A-level exams, and vocational exams and assessments, as we know them, have been cancelled.

Ofqual’s consultation ended on 31st January but we have been told not to expect anything definitive until the end of March. We’ll communicate those details as soon as we have more information.

The key thing is to keep working, keep doing assignments and projects. The Government has indicated that it will collect Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) from schools and colleges by 18th June so please keep going so that we continue to have evidence of your learning. We anticipate the requirement for some form of assessment and as such, your continued learning will be invaluable to you.

The cancellation of the summer exams is, no doubt, causing you concern and anxiety about your potential grades. In short, don’t worry! Our advice to all applicants is to keep up the good work; the more knowledge you have the better placed you will be to do any form of assessment and, ultimately, to progress to what you want to do and where you want to go next. We would like to reassure you that once you have accepted your offer, we will guarantee you a place at Cirencester College no matter what happens on results day.

We know that the restrictions around staying at home, being isolated and not being able to see our friends, is challenging for everyone, particularly over such a long period of time, and it is important that you continue to look after your physical and mental health.

To support you in this, the Pastoral Team have put together a few self-care steps to help you to maintain a fit and healthy body and mind which you will see below.

The most important step is to maintain your routine as much as possible by getting up in the morning and going to bed at the same time each day. Eating regular meals and staying hydrated will help, as will taking breaks throughout the day to talk to someone or do something that you enjoy. If it’s possible, try activities that get you moving.

We understand that it has been a difficult time but you know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Think about what you might want to do when restrictions are lifted, how you will stay connected now and how you will prioritise your wellbeing. Planning might help reduce any anxiety or troubling thoughts. With so much uncertainty in the news, creating a routine you stick to can really help maintain a sense of structure and normality. Try to find time in your routine for activities that help you feel calm.

There is a lot of advice and guidance on-line about self-care at this time:

The NHS Five Steps to Wellbeing may be a little more challenging when in isolation and/or staying at home, but they apply just as much as they do to ‘normal’ life.

1) Connect

Connect with the people around you, with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours, at home, work, college or local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day. Being kind to others will help you too. If you are struggling to talk to people, you may find this resource useful https://www.talk2gether.nhs.uk/useful-resources/

2) Be active

Walk your dog, cycle, play a game, go in the garden, dance… Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness

Check out the link below for tips, advice and guidance on how to keep or get active in and around your home or outdoors. Join the Sport England Movement and find ideas of activities that are right for you and your family  https://www.sportengland.org/jointhemovement

3) Keep learning

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up to a new course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

If you have nothing to do from school/college, you will find free online learning using the links below.

Open University free course catalogue: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses/full-catalogue

4) Give to others

Do something nice for a friend or a stranger. Smile, volunteer at a local organisation. Seeing yourself and your happiness linked to the wider community is incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

Gloucestershire’s councils and partners have also created a community help hub to connect local people who need help, with others who can provide the support they need.

The hub will be accessible from every district council website, and from the county council’s website (Gloucestershire Help Hub).

5) Take notice

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Savour the moment, whether you are walking the dog, eating lunch, or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling.

For more information, look on NHS: Five steps to Wellbeing