We continue to live through difficult times but I sincerely wish you all the very best for this year ahead.
On our first day back after the festive break, the Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown for England until at least mid-February to combat the fast-spreading new variant of the coronavirus. This announcement resulted in Richmond upon Thames College closing for face to face learning except for the children of key workers and vulnerable students. Our teachers were in touch with all our students to make clear arrangements around how lessons would be delivered virtually. The College is ensuring that all students are taught “live” via Microsoft Teams with attendance recorded in the same way as would normally be the case for an on-site lesson. In addition to these communications, information about remote learning, wellbeing and the support that is available has been sent to students and their parents.
The statement from the Prime Minister announcing that GCSE and A Level examinations were cancelled and a further statement from the Secretary of State for Education that Centre Assessed Grades would determine students’ qualification results has been an additional challenge for students and staff. We have communicated to all students the importance of making the most of their learning during lockdown and what is required for students to showcase their abilities in order to both meet and exceed their predicted grades. We continue to monitor and be part of all the consultation processes that Ofqual and the Department of Education are running.
Lateral Flow Testing
On 4 and 5 January, the College received a delivery of lateral flow device test kits and equipment. We have now set up a testing area onsite to help identify asymptomatic cases which otherwise would not be detected. Staff, contractors and students have been tested in line with guidance: two tests, three to five days apart. 135 tests were carried out in the first two weeks of January and thankfully nobody tested positive.
Richmond upon Thames College received an Interim Visit from Ofsted in November. The focus of the visit was to identify how the College is meeting the needs of students and apprentices during these periods of restriction. We are extremely pleased with the report as it highlighted how we quickly adapted our curriculum to online delivery, how we have supported students with laptops and how we have ensured that both students and staff are safe and supported. A copy of the report is available to read on our website.
Our partnership with Harrow and Uxbridge College Group is developing well as we look to merge and become one new college group at the end of this academic year. This decision was unanimously made by both corporations before the festive period and reflects a positive and deliberate strategy to deliver a strengthened and sustainable offer to our local communities.
This merger will allow the colleges to further develop existing links and bring together two strong organisations to form a partnership of equals. It will allow both colleges to preserve their distinctiveness while building on the individual strengths of each college.
The benefits of this collaboration I believe are clear. The merged colleges will form ‘an arc’ around West, South and Central London that meets local community education and training needs. Together our Colleges will be stronger and better able to develop the potential of our students both during their time with us and into their futures. We recognise that to ensure a successful partnership of equals, communication and stakeholder engagement is critical and we will be launching a Public Consultation in March. Both RuTC and HCUC will be widely encouraging responses and I have already begun informal briefings about the merger with local stakeholders, including our excellent and supportive local MP Munira Wilson. I look forward to continuing these as the year progresses.
The College continues business as usual albeit virtually and we continue to hold Open Events during the spring term, the dates for these are:
- Wednesday 3 March 2021, 5pm-7pm
- Saturday 20 March 2021, 11am-1pm
- Tuesday 20 April 2021, 5pm-7pm
Our STEM Centre plans have been submitted to Richmond Council and we await approval for work to start on-site before the Easter break ready for our students to use the facility from September 2022.
Before the festive break the College launched a 360 degree virtual tour on our website of the new Richmond Building and surrounding areas. You can guide yourself around the building popping into various rooms and areas and seeing all our student service areas, classrooms, kitchens, boardroom, art rooms and other specialist areas – it’s well worth a tour of this amazing building.