Chair of Governors Update
Chair’s Update January 2021
When I wrote my last update in July, we could foresee that the College would be opening in September for all year groups and a huge amount of work was already underway to make the site as safe as possible for all staff and students to try to limit the spread of Covid 19 within our community. There is no doubt in my mind that the detailed planning and preparations that took place over the summer helped us to keep the number of positive cases of the virus within the College community very low. In fact, up until October half term we had yet to ask any student to self-isolate. Even after half term, as the numbers were creeping up across the county, we still had very few positive cases and were able to limit the numbers of students and staff who had to self-isolate. This must be, to a large extent, due to the rigorous measures put in place; from actively encouraging the use of face coverings long before they were made mandatory elsewhere, to successfully keeping students in year group bubbles and introducing staggered break times. This was done whilst trying to ensure that the delivery of teaching and learning was as close to “normal” as possible; so students still moved around the site for their different lessons, taught by specialist staff. Our staff did a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances. They had to organise the collection of students from muster points, ensure that classrooms were kept sanitized and keep teaching whilst maintaining an appropriate social distance from students – not easy in a busy College environment.
You will be aware, I am sure, that in the last week of the Christmas term, the Department for Education were having to issue changes to plans and instructions for schools on an almost daily basis. Our senior leadership team remained responsible for identifying any positive cases and tracking close contacts up to and including Christmas Eve. At the same time, the decision that secondary schools must set up test centres from the start of this term provided them with another major planning job over the holidays. I am really grateful to the many of you in the community who volunteered to help with this – we were able to open the test centre last Wednesday 6th January and tested well over 100 staff on the first day. This was extended to students by the end of that week and both staff and students on site will continue to be tested on a weekly basis. This has been a massive undertaking, but, as ever, the College team rose to the challenge brilliantly. There is a video of the test centre in action on the College Facebook page if you want to see how it all works.
We also know now that GCSEs and A level exams will not be sat this summer. I know this will be a real blow to many of our Year 11 and 13 students. At the moment we are awaiting further information about how Centre Assessed Grades will be calculated, but I am sure that staff are doing all they can to reassure your child if they are in these year groups. It was great to see that BBC Radio Devon picked up on the positive message sent out from our College to the students as soon as the announcement was made.
Now, of course, we are back in lockdown, open only to children of critical workers and our vulnerable students and working hard to make sure that remote lessons are engaging students and are as effective as possible. In the past three to four years, we have put some really good channels of communication in place, so please make sure you use these if you have any concerns or questions you want to ask the College team. Or, indeed, if there are any compliments you want to send to them which are, of course, also very welcome! Many of you have given lots of positive feedback on our social media pages and it really is very much appreciated.
The good news is that the site development plans are pressing ahead. Work commences on the £13.5 million redevelopment on the lower part of the Green Close site this week whilst the work for the new Maths block begins in early March. As I have said before, these projects will transform the College, so that the buildings truly match the excellent quality of education we offer to all our students. All the works are due to be completely finished by the Autumn of 2023. We are intending to set up a Facebook group for our neighbours/ local residents to be kept up to date with the new build as it progresses – more details of this will be sent out via our social media platforms over the next few weeks.
In the meantime, I hope you will agree with me that the College has really risen to the challenges that the pandemic has presented to us and shown throughout, as always, a real commitment to students and families in our community. I hope that you all continue to stay safe and well over the coming weeks.
Chair of Governors