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Return to College FAQs

Returning to College in September 2020: FAQs for students and parents/carers

The health, safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and visitors is our priority. Over the summer holidays we have been busy implementing systems and processes for a safe return for all our students to college this September. 

The 2020/21 academic year is going to look and feel different from previous years, as we manage the safe return to campus. We are a large and complex organisation, so are planning that learning will take place with a blend of face-to-face and online learning at the start of the term.

We continue to follow government advice and adhere to the Department for Education guidance to ensure our campus is as safe as possible and minimise the risk to everyone onsite.

The FAQs below aim to provide students, parents and carers with as much information, advice and support as possible in readiness for the autumn term.  

When does the Autumn Term start?

Full-time students will start during the week commencing 7 September 2020 with an induction. Teaching will begin the week commencing 14 September 2020. 

Apprentices, Access, Higher Education and Part-time students will be sent individual information about their Induction and start dates.

Further information about your College timetable and specific start dates will be communicated to students by their teaching team. 

Term dates for 2020/21Term dates for 2020/21

Will the College main reception be open?

No, the College reception will not be routinely open to students. We want to restrict the number of people accessing the campus, so we are closing the main reception area to minimise situations that pose the threat of cross-contamination.

We are organising an information point in each Zone (see Zone information map), for students to book appointments or quiet study spaces or ask questions. Locations are:

Green Zone – The Food Court (also known as The Refectory)

Purple Zone – Main Reception in Building A

Blue Zone – iHub in Building D

What is the procedure for arriving at College?

Students will be assigned a Zone and informed of the designated ‘entrance’ and ‘exit’ points to the campus, as well as, a staggered timeslot for arrival and departure - this will be communicated to you by the College prior to your start date. 

Students should not access the campus through the main reception; this is open to some staff and visitors only currently.

What measures have been taken to ensure safety on the College campus?

The College have updated risk assessments in place ensuring the safety of its settings so that measures can be put in place to minimise those risks for students and staff.

Students will be expected to stay within their own designated groups to help minimise contact and mixing between people – keeping to smaller groups helps minimise the number of people that you are in daily contact with and helps protect you and others. The College will endeavour to keep groups separate and maintain distance between individuals where possible.

The College has installed signage to facilitate social distancing and remind all staff, visitors and students of the need to maintain social distancing. 

We will be operating a keep-left policy in corridors and stairwells. The use of face coverings will be encouraged in areas where social distancing is more difficult to maintain.  Wall markings will be used to indicate this. 

Timetables will be set up to minimise movement around the site, where possible, and to ensure corridors, entrances/exits are not congested.

Classrooms have been rearranged so that space is optimised with seating and desks separated to help observe social distancing. Screens will be used in computer rooms, where terminals cannot easily be separated. Hand sanitiser, hand soap and tissues will be readily available with regular reminders of the importance of good hand hygiene – the ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ approach will also be promoted.

Antibacterial wipes will be readily available and we have arranged for increased cleaning around our buildings. Anything that has been used should be wiped and disinfected after use. In some cases, where students are responsible for a work area or tools, they will be expected to take responsibility for hygiene and safety of their workspace. 

Windows will be opened (where possible and safe to do so) to improve natural ventilation. Air-conditioning will be set to fresh air and will not be re-circulating.

What will learning spaces look like?

We have established 3 ‘Zones’ on campus. Students will be expected to remain in their Zone and not cross-between zones without permission.

As far as possible, all learning spaces will be in the designated ‘zone’, and students will remain in them for the duration of their lessons, with the exception of using toilet facilities or outdoor activities set up by their team.

As far as possible, we are allocating our teaching teams to specific buildings. However in some cases, because of access to specific resources or space requirements, teams need to share building spaces. In these circumstances, we are operating rota systems for the use of shared buildings to reduce footfall and allow additional time for cleaning.

Upon their arrival, students are expected to go immediately to their learning space.

Our buildings all have their own set of additional cleaning materials such as hand sanitiser, antibacterial gel, and wipes which will be available to staff and students.

If, for any reason, students need to move around the College, we have implemented keep-left systems and encourage the use of face coverings in areas where social distancing may be more difficult to maintain (see section below on PPE and face coverings).

How will I be taught?

Your course will be a blend of face-to-face and online learning. Your team will provide you with details of how to access resources and use the technology you need to learn.

For Full-time students this will usually be 3 x ½ days on campus, however this can vary from team-to-team dependent on access to professional resources. The rest of your learning will be online and can be undertaken at home. Your teaching team will provide you with the full details. 

We will review our approach and increase face-to-face delivery after the first half-term, assuming it is safe to do so.

What if I don’t have an appropriate area to study at home?

Each zone will have bookable study spaces for students who need a quiet place to work. These can be booked through the Enquiry points in each Zone. Students will be expected to strictly adhere to rules in these areas.

What Technology will I need to study at home?

Full-time and HE students are provided with an iPad by the College. During Induction you will be provided with information on what applications and software you need, as well as how to use them. If you do not have home Wi-Fi access you may be eligible for a bursary to assist with costs. 

For adult students and apprentices, each team will work with you to understand your technology requirements. In some cases, you may be eligible for a bursary to cover some costs.

Will staff and students wear masks or PPE?

Guidance from the Government says that wearing a face covering or a face mask in schools or other education settings in most areas of England is not recommended. They recommend their use only in communal areas or corridors where social distancing is difficult to maintain. The College will display signs to indicate these areas and encourage their use.

Anyone choosing to wear a mask to College, is responsible for their own mask and should follow guidelines on how to safely put-on, remove and wash/dispose of the mask.

In the event of local restrictions, the College will be expected to make the wearing of face coverings mandatory in communal areas.

In most cases teaching staff will not be wearing a face covering or face mask. However, there are a few situations where PPE may be required – for example personal care, supporting to eat or drink and/or assisting with medication, using hazardous equipment or machinery that requires close supervision.

What catering facilities are available for staff and students?

The majority of students will not require access to catering, as they are attending for ½ day sessions either side of a lunch period. Exit/Extrance times to the campus have been staggered to ensure less pressure on the town centre.

The College will be providing ‘grab and go’ style catering in each Zone for those in receipt of Free Schools Meals, Looked After Children, Bursary Students and students in Supported Studies. These will be pre-ordered using our College WisePay system.

Where students may be attending for longer than ½ day, they can either bring a packed lunch (to eat in their classroom, or outside in their zone) or will be provided with a break to access offsite facilities.

Zone map and directions

A 'zone' is a defined area on campus to which students are allocated for their face-to-face teaching. Each ‘zone’ has separate entrance and enquiry points.

Campus map with zones simplified

Scan the QR code below to find a google map route to your correct entrance

Zones QR codes

Am I allowed to smoke or vape on Campus?

The College operates a strict no-smoking policy on campus. 

Smoking shelters have been removed, as these are areas where people are likely to congregate and breach social distancing guidelines. 

We are asking students, staff and visitors not to congregate on pavements outside entrances/exits to smoke. This is not fair to other people using these entrances or to our neighbours.

I’m a student and anxious about going into College

If you have any concerns, please contact us to talk about how we can support you. Either contact your Tutor, your Team Manager or our Student Services team. Student Services can be contacted on 07946 713288 or you can email the team at .

I’m a parent or carer and really anxious about my child returning to College

Be assured that we will be following Government guidance and taking every precaution to ensure the safety of everyone working within the College. This includes all students, staff and any visitors to our campuses. If you would like to discuss any concerns, please contact our Student Services Team at XXXXXX.

What can I do to reduce the risks of catching Covid-19?

Please continue to follow government and Public Health England guidelines regarding frequent hand washing and social distancing, and remain aware of potential symptoms of the virus. 

Coivd-19 Symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus (Covid-19) are:

  • A high temperature

  • a new, continuous cough

  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

If you feel unwell and you think you may have coronavirus, please visit the NHS website for further guidance about what to do next.

What happens if a student shows symptoms of Covid-19 whilst at College?

The College will be following government guidance if this happens. The student will be isolated on campus and then sent home and asked to follow government guidelines, which will include getting a Covid-19 test. Members of their household are also advised to self-isolate until they receive their test result.

Other students in their group do not normally need to be sent home. 

If the test comes back negative, the student will be allowed back on campus. 

If the test is positive, all students in the group will be sent home. They will need to self-isolate for 14 days. If during this period they have any symptoms they will need to get a test. 

You will need to inform the College of the results of a test by calling your teacher and Central Admin on 01279 868211

If a student is showing symptoms and chooses not to be tested, they will not be allowed on campus until they have had a test.

What happens if a member of staff shows symptoms of Covid-19?

All staff and students who are attending an educational setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of Covid-19, and are encouraged to get tested.

Parents and carers can support us by:

  • Ensuring that anyone who has Covid-19 symptoms does not attend College – this means if your child, or someone in your household, has symptoms you should not send them to College.
  • Engaging with the NHS Test and Trace process so that cases can be identified and action taken – this means if your child develops symptoms, you should arrange for them to get a test and you should inform College of the results of the test.

What is the process in the event of an outbreak?

We will continue to follow government and Department for Education guidance. If the College experiences an outbreak, either because we have two or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 among students or staff within 14 days, or we see an increase in student or staff absence rates due to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, we will need to contact our local Health Protection Team. This team will advise if additional action is required. Closure of the whole College will generally not be necessary. However, we may need to close class groups, buildings or zones.

If our local area sees a spike in infection rates resulting in localised community spread, decisions will be made on what measures to implement to help contain the spread. The government will be involved in decisions and will support individual education providers to follow the health advice.

In all cases, where groups of students need to self-isolate or where a larger restriction of attendance at College is needed, the College will aim to ensure teaching and learning can continue remotely.

Where should I go if I have more questions?

If you can’t find the information you need or if you have a specific question about your individual circumstances please contact us: https://www.harlow-college.ac.uk/why-choose-us/supporting-you/need-help

For the latest information and advice about coronavirus (Covid-19) please visit attached links below:

The Department for Education’s Coronavirus Helpline is available to answer questions regarding education. Students and parents/carers can contact this helpline on 0800 046 8687 (opening hours 8am-6pm Monday-Friday).