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Coronavirus Q&A guidance: what you need to know

Updated: 06/03/2020

Updated: May 29th 2020. Please see our Q&A covering a range of questions about the Coronavirus (Covid-19).

Coronavirus Q&A guidance: what you need to know

Good hygiene practices can help provide protection against the Coronavirus (Covid-19). Credit: Image used under licence from Shutterstock.com.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus (Covid-19) is a new virus that has not been seen in humans before, so there is currently no vaccination.

It causes flu-like symptoms including a cough, high temperature and shortness of breath. But these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you have the illness.

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of the following symptoms: a new continuous cough, a high temperature and / or a loss of or change to their sense of smell or taste.

For most people, coronavirus is a mild illness that passes. For others, such as those with underlying health conditions, it can be more serious.

How do I protect myself? 

Please follow official advice.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds.
  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work.
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

When will the College re-open?

Student and staff safety remains our number one priority and forms the basis of every single decision we are making in regards to re-opening.

None of our college campuses will be open for learning before Monday, June 15th 2020. We will confirm when we are re-opening as soon as we can via the College's email accounts and website.

Some students will need to return to campus for a short period of time before the end of term to complete their course. We will let you know if that applies to you and will release a list of courses soon.

We plan to resume our nursery service and open to three and four-year-olds in the first instance, in addition to looking after key worker and vulnerable children, on Monday, June 15th 2020, at the earliest. More information on that will be sent to parents and carers soon.

We continue to ask that all students learn remotely, and staff work remotely, as we prepare the College for re-opening.
 Please continue to stay safe and follow government guidelines. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

I am having problems accessing financial support - what should I do?

If you are eligible for financial support from the College and have any questions or concerns about accessing that, then please email us on financial-support@sheffcol.ac.uk.

I have a safeguarding concern - what should I do?

If you have a safeguarding concern, please email us immediately on safeguarding@sheffcol.ac.uk.

What will happen to exams?

All academic and vocational exams have been cancelled for the rest of this academic year. Ofqual, the regulatory body for qualifications and exams, has provided details on how academic and vocational qualifications should be graded.

The grades that you receive this summer will look exactly the same as in previous years, and they will have equal status with universities, colleges and employers, to help you move forward in your lives as planned. Please see more details below.

BTEC and vocational qualifications update

For the majority of vocational and technical qualifications due to be awarded this summer, Ofqual will use the same grading system being applied to A Levels and GCSEs. 

This means that results for most vocational qualifications will be calculated on a range of evidence based on the result you would have been likely to have achieved had you completed your assessments in July 2020

We might be asked to use the following to provide the estimation: teacher’s professional judgement, evidence of achievement whilst on programme, a comparison to historic outcomes for the college and a check to see whether there appears to be a reasonable profile of grades compared to similar years.

Some students will already have completed assessments in some modules and, where that evidence usually counts towards a result, it could be taken into account. In some instances, we may need to also supply a rank order of students.

There are some qualifications that are primarily designed to support progression to or through employment, rather than to further or higher education or to an apprenticeship. 

Where it is not possible to generate a calculated result in those instances, Ofqual will encourage an adaption of assessments or delivery models as long as this does not undermine the reliability of the result and only where assessments can take place within social distancing rules.

You can find more detailed information from Ofqual on vocational qualifications by clicking here.

Functional Skills

Functional skills results will also be based on teacher calculated grades and will follow the same format as that for A Levels and GCSEs.

We will be asked to use a range of evidence to calculate the grades, which could include any assessments that have taken place already at the College.

GCSE and A Level exams

Ofqual has asked the College to send exam boards two pieces of information for each of your GCSE and A Levels subjects, based on what we know about your work and achievements.

These are: 

  • the grade we believe you were most likely to get if teaching, learning and exams had happened as planned
  • within each subject, the order of students at the college, by performance for each grade

Ofqual has advised that results won’t be delayed after the dates they were expected in August and they may be issued a little earlier, so you can have the certainty you need.

You can find more detailed information from Ofqual about GCSEs and A Levels about by clicking here

Apprenticeships

According to government guidance, apprentices can be furloughed by employers in the same way as other employees.

Apprentices can also continue to train whilst furloughed, and employers are being encouraged to make use of distance learning tools where possible.

Apprenticeship funding rules already make provision for any disruption in learning, which must be reported if it is greater than four weeks.

Some flexibilities are being introduced to enable learners to complete their apprenticeships in the event of disruption to assessment and their learning. This is being handled through the College's Apprenticeships team.

The College has already written to employers offering our support, making them aware of the government’s support for businesses, and urging them to enable apprentices to continue their training wherever possible.

Access to higher education qualification update

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has confirmed that they will follow a similar process to that of the A Level and GCSE students.

This applies to students due to complete an Access to Higher Education Diploma by July 31st 2020.

The QAA has stated that it will award grades based on assessments already completed with calculated grades for any assessments not yet been completed.

Calculated grades will take into account teacher assessment of the likely grade along with prior attainment on the course.

The QAA has also also stated that they expect us to continue to provide teaching and learning in some form wherever possible.

Higher education

In line with guidance from the Office for Students, we have been working closely with our higher education partners as we continue to deal with assessments and qualifications on a programme by programme basis.

I'm applying for a course in September 2020 - what happens next?

We have been contacting applicants for September 2020. The College is committed to ensuring that applicants are not adversely affected, especially students who were due to take exams this summer.

If you have already attended an interview, then you will have an offer or have been provided with further advice and guidance. If you have not yet had an interview, then we will automatically be making course offers based on your predicted grades. 

If you've not already applied, then please click here to find out more. Email admissions@sheffcol.ac.uk or call 0114 2602600.

I am an employer - what should I do about my apprentices?

We are working hard to support employers and ensure that our apprentices can continue their training wherever possible via online learning and one-to-one tutoring via online channels such as Skype.

We have written to employers to confirm the current government guidance.

Employers can access the Chancellor's support for businesses, such as the Job Retention Scheme, to retain staff including apprentices. For more information, please click here.

The government has introduced some temporary flexibilities that will enable apprentices to continue their learning or take a break and resume it at a later date. These flexibilities also extend to some arrangements regarding end point assessments.

We want to support you as best we can during this challenging time. Please email employer@sheffcol.ac.uk if you have any queries or concerns.

What action has the College been taking in response to the situation?

The College has been treating this situation as a major incident and activated a Covid-19 incident management team at the beginning of the pandemic.

The team comprises members of the Executive Leadership Team and staff from all parts of the organisation including communications, curriculum, estates, exams, health and safety, human resources, IT and student support services.

The group is meeting remotely as it continues to plan and coordinate the College's response to the pandemic and is now working on the re-opening plans.

What should I do if I have suspected Coronavirus symptoms? 

  • If you develop suspected symptoms, you should stay at home and self isolate for seven days. 
  • If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.
  • Do not go to a pharmacy, GP surgery or hospital.
  • Only use the NHS 111 online service if symptoms become difficult to cope with, get worse or do not go after seven days. Visit https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/
  • The NHS 111 telephone service is still available for those people who are not online. Only call 111 if you cannot get help via the online service.
  • In an emergency (life threatening) situation, dial 999.

What does self isolate mean?

  • Stay at home; don’t leave the house.
  • Ask friends and family to deliver food but avoid contact with them.
  • Try to stay away from older people and those with long term health problems.
  • Try to keep at least three steps away from other people in your home.
  • Keep hydrated with water.

Advice and help:                        

  • NHS 111 is available 24 hours, seven days a week. Use the NHS 111 online service if symptoms become difficult to cope with, get worse or do not go after seven days. Visit https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/
  • Only call NHS 111 if you cannot get help via the online service.
  • If you have difficulties communicating or hearing, call 18001 111 on a textphone or use the NHS 111 British Sign Language interpreter service here: https://interpreternow.co.uk/nhs111
  • In an emergency (life threatening) situation, dial 999.

Mental health information and support:

Where can I find more information? 

NHS health advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Public Health England: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

Department for Education Coronavirus Helpline: Telephone 0800 046 8687. Email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

The helpline is for students, staff, and parents and carers, who have questions about Covid-19 relating to education.