Social Distancing (Wirral Met College)

Number and mix of 16-18, 14-16 and adult learners

2,300 16-18s / 8,000 adults

Number of campuses, type of estate

Four Main Campuses and a specialist centre.

What have been your key considerations when applying the guidance on social distancing?

We have followed Government guidance, using the preferred 2m rule of social distancing where possible; This has included creating one way access and egress; marking up common areas to make the social distancing rule clear; completely remodelling learning to include college based AND online learning to provide a blended model approach thus reducing peak capacity on campus; timetabled and highly regulated meal breaks with any central facility organised for social distancing compliance.  This has been underpinned by a Risk Assessment supported by Method Statements that define the controls put in place, which have been used to create a four part training package for staff; Part 1 about the virus itself; Part 2 the Governance and Management of health and safety that incorporates mitigating risks of Covid-19; Part 3a very detailed training linked to the Risk Assessment and Controls and Part 3b implementing the training, by a team based session to look specifically at their role and area – all of which further informs local departmental risk assessment.   This is also being reflected in student training and induction.  It is clear that the elements of control work together so although social distancing is a key part of this, it is most effective when operated with all of the other controls linked to increased focus on hygiene, specific adaptations of cleaning in both methods and routines and other related actions, such as changing learning times to help reduce travel during peak times.

How are you planning to manage social distancing?  In social spaces? In classrooms?

We have reviewed every classroom and teaching space to identify the ‘Covid-19 safe’ capacity and used this to inform a revised timetable. This will split usual size class groups so that they all get college based learning, supplemented with online learning, to include remote teaching, all of which allows a social distancing model to operate.  Because we operate from Entry Level to Higher Education, each cohort and level of students have been considered and the model used underpins the very different needs of each group.  In addition to the blended learning model, we also consider individual learning needs and it will be the case that students with specific needs will have an adjusted learning model, to support their individual circumstances. For some groups it may be almost 100% college based.

We have modelled our approach to plan for a potential ‘flip’ back into lockdown or for a no risk scenario should a vaccine become available. However, some of the experience, feedback and impact of blended learning will continue to be a feature because it is successful and this is a positive outcome of the challenges presented by Covid-19

The provision of equipment and ensuring our Virtual Learning Environment supports access to remote learning is a challenge and we are identifying each individual student’s access, to ensure they are properly resourced to engage in every aspect of learning.

The importance of good quality induction to help students understand why they are being asked to adhere to the new controls to stay safe in a world of Covid-19 is the key to this; Adaptations of buildings and rules will probably achieve 20% success.  The remaining is on the behaviours and compliance and so this will feature significantly in induction.