Stepping up and stepping in: colleges supporting students, staff and communities through coronavirus

By Philippa Alway on

Every day since the coronavirus emerged, colleges have been doing amazing things to help their students, staff and communities. Colleges have always played a vital civic role alongside their teaching and training. Working with their local governments, NHS, community groups and other education institutions in their area, they are showing why colleges are so important and what civic duty means at a time of crisis. 

We want to help everyone in our sector to feel proud of the role colleges are playing through this crisis. We are spreading the word of the work that is being done across the country to make the case for the investible proposition - how colleges are supporting community cohesion and economic recovery, now and in the future. 

These case studies are just a taste of what colleges are doing during this unprecedented time. Thank you to those who have shared your fantastic work already - we are continuing to amplify what you are doing and sharing this with the Department for Education and the media. Send us what you're doing if and when you can.

Colleges supporting their vulnerable students

The Peterborough Regional College team supported a vulnerable 18 year-old woman living independently and whose support from social services had reduced because of her recent birthday. She didn’t know what she needed during this tough time. They gave her a chrome book, set up and paid for internet access, and gave her a bag of food – prioritising welfare and empowering her to stay connected and continue to learn.

Colleges collaborating with their local communities

Lancaster & Morecambe College are working with Lancaster City Council and Eggcup to produce and distribute food parcels to vulnerable families and individuals across their district. They will be using their industry-standard catering kitchens to create meals from food donated by local businesses. Their chef and catering tutors will be supporting volunteers to peel, chop, cook and pack 4-5 different meals which will then be delivered by Eggcup staff who will distribute them within the local community. 

Colleges working with their local NHS organisations

South Gloucestershire and Stroud College has agreed to assist the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust with the loan of a block of its estate with immediate effect, for urgent staff training in response to the Corona emergency. The training is on infection control and manual handling. Initially this is upskilling for up to 150 school nurses and they expect more to follow. 

Meanwhile, North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College (NWSLC) has answered the call to donate essential equipment to the NHS for use in the fight against the coronavirus. It is making available around 3,000 pairs of disposable gloves, 3,000 aprons and around 60 pairs of goggles and masks for use by frontline staff. The college uses personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect students in teaching departments including engineering, motor vehicle, hairdressing and beauty therapy. 

South Devon College is working with their local NHS Digital Transformation Team to produce 3D printed face shields for NHS frontline staff at Torbay Hospital. The Hi Tech & Digital Business Centre on campus has been approved to print the visors. They are calling on other universities and colleges who might be able to do the same with their 3D printers to get in touch with them to share the specifications for production.

Colleges supporting the wellbeing of students and staff

Dudley College of Technology has been supporting their SEND students and staff team during lockdown with relaxing activities such as Tai Chi Qigong online using Zoom. With levels of stress and panic high at the moment (for staff and students alike), this is helping to reduce feelings of claustrophobia and fear, as well as keeping the college community together virtually.  This has kept up team morale as staff still feel like they are connecting in shared task. 

And in the capital, West London College are offering online Zumba classes for staff to encourage them to “shake their cares away” and stay connected. Their Assistant Principal (Young People) Tracy Round-Turner, who is running the classes, is also setting up lunchtime yoga-style stretching classes and hopes to get the whole college sector re-energising for the afternoon ahead soon.

Colleges maintaining international relationships virtually

Dudley College of Technology photography students are working with partners in India on an upcoming cookbook, Black Country meets India. Students at Mahatma Ghandi International School in Ahmedabad are cooking and photographing their favourite Gujarat family recipes and sending them to students in Dudley, collaborating in editing and enhancing the images. Students recently took part in an exchange program and left India two weeks ago, just after the coronavirus pandemic forced India to close its borders to visitors.