Volunteers answer call to test students returning to college for virus

Sidmouth College Principal Sarah Parsons

Sidmouth College Principal Sarah Parsons - Credit: Sidmouth College

More than 40 volunteers have stepped forward to help Sidmouth College students return to the classroom safely on Monday.
As schools across the country prepare to reopen for face-to-face learning from March 8, Sidmouth College staff have been making preparations to welcome back their students. And in a bid to keep the spread of coronavirus in check, the college recently posted a request on social media for volunteers to help with testing of its students. More than 40 volunteers from across the Sidmouth community answered the call for help and will be on hand to test students for the virus using lateral flow kits. 
College principal Sarah Parsons said the teachers were looking forward to Monday. 
She said: “All of the staff at the college are looking forward to welcoming the students back. Our teachers have missed the face-to-face teaching as much as the students.”
Last year, construction work was completed on a new main building block and other facilities and was officially opened on Monday, January 4. However, the national lockdown was then announced meaning that students have yet to set foot inside the new building.
Mrs Parsons said: “Upon their return, the students will have some time with their tutor which will include a wellbeing check in conversation. They will also have an expectation assembly and because we have moved into our new building they will have a walk around the new one-way system to familiarise themselves. They will then start their lessons.
“Tutors have been having regular live contact throughout lockdown and in the build-up to the students' return have focussed on talking about return to college plans. We have also set up a reopening page on our website to support students' return.”
Government guidance states that testing remains voluntary but is strongly encouraged.
Students who have consented to testing will complete three tests three to five days apart in the college and then this will move to home testing. It’s anticipated the process will take two weeks to complete. Students from Years 10, 11, 12 and 13 will be tested for the virus on Monday and will return to face-to-face learning from Tuesday, March 9. Years 7, 8 and 9 will be tested on Tuesday, March 9, returning to face-to-face learning from Wednesday, March 10.
Mrs Parsons said: “Response has been positive. It is voluntary but there is a large percentage of the student population who will be tested prior to returning.
“We are now occupying the new building, we have all our Covid protective measures in place as we did in the autumn term, including hand sanitisers in every room, use of face coverings, increased washing facilities and a one-way system. We will also be operating our year group bubbles and staggered timetable.
“I would like to recognise the hard work, maturity and resilience of our wonderful students and thank the staff for maintaining our high quality remote education offer. 
“I would like to thank our parents for their continued support and I would like to take the opportunity to also thank the wider community. We have been overwhelmed by the support of donations not only of devices but funding and time from our wonderful volunteers. I think we are all hopeful and optimistic that we can remain open now that the vaccination programme continues to be so successful. 
“We all know that our young people need to be in the college not only for their learning, but for the structure, support, routine and social interaction. This past year has made us appreciate even more the opportunities that we can once again offer our young people at the college as we see restrictions ease over the next few months.”

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