Welcome to a new Academic Year at Brooklands and one that we hope will have minimal disruption from COVID-19.
Over the past 18 months, the College has implemented the frequently changing rules, initiatives and working practices, required by the Department for Education to keep our staff and students safe. At various points along that journey that has included teaching almost all of our students remotely via streamed lessons, creating student bubbles, restricting movement across campus and implementing distancing arrangements to minimise contact. We have maintained enhanced cleaning and natural ventilation protocols, provided sanitising gel and wipes and also required face coverings in common areas. Not least of our efforts was the roll out of our on-campus lateral flow testing in early part of 2021, an offer that has been mirrored for every returning and new student for this new Autumn Term.
As you will be aware the government eased most of its COVID-19 related rules on the 19th July and since the 16th August self-isolation for close contacts of those testing positive has only been required for those who are 18 or over and who have not had two COVID vaccinations (with Colleges no longer required to assist with test and trace).
Colleges are still required to “assess risks” from COVID and, where appropriate to settings, adopt good practices and recommendations laid out in government and sector guidance. This change, and the autonomy it affords different settings, has inevitably lead to inconsistent approaches across the sector and some frequently asked questions from students and their families which we will try to answer below:
What specific arrangements will Brooklands continue to put in place in relation to COVID-19?
I am concerned that the easing of DfE rules will increase the likelihood of COVID-19.
The College would recognise that many people are apprehensive about the next few months and, whilst hopeful that the ongoing vaccination program will provide sufficient containment and mitigation against the pandemic now that rules have been eased, many people remain to some degree cautious about the risks of getting back to normal. However, as we can see from the media, COVID-19 related data is looked at and reported on a daily basis and Brooklands is well positioned to respond rapidly to any changes in DfE requirements if these are required over coming months
What is the testing offer at Brooklands?
The majority of students have opted to continue testing remotely with home test kits. These are available from the College for all staff and students. We also have a small on-campus testing centre in place, as per DfE requirements for occasions where students would like advice on testing or to see if they are carrying out the tests correctly
Do students need to test?
Although this is not an enforceable requirement and students opting not to test will not be excluded from the College or disadvantaged in their learning, we do recommend it. And where students do decide to test, the recommendation is twice a week
Do students need to test if they have been vaccinated?
It is recommended that they do yes, because being vaccinated does not prevent an individual from carrying and transmitting COVID-19 to others
Will COVID-19 arrangements be consistent across the whole College?
No – but this is intentional. Most of the arrangements described previously are intended to be consistently applied across the College but some – for example face coverings and distancing protocols – may be different for a number of reasons – varying departmental and locational risks, specifically vulnerable individuals working at some locations, specific industry rules applying to certain courses and medical exemptions for some individuals – eg in wearing face coverings. Our efforts and combined central and departmental risk management strategy looks to apply the tightest controls only in the areas with the greatest risks – to normalise education to the greatest extent possible in line with DfE guidance
Are those with learning disabilities more at risk from COVID-19?
One specific piece of research recently put forward this proposition but the report went on to suggest that the statistics were more related to risk factors affecting adults who may be less able to take care of themselves, may live in residential care, not be supported in understanding risks or who were generally, were trying to cope in unmanaged environments. Some specific physiological factors were highlighted though, so the College will continue to monitor this closely and look out for any additional DfE suggested practices – plus our dedicated ALS team will continue to produce Personal Safety Assessments for those students identified as requiring these.
We hope the above helps to answer your questions but your usual contacts at Brooklands will be able to support you with more if you have others.