Since our last newsletter in April it has been a challenging time for us all. The recent death of George Floyd generated much anger and grief among our staff and students alike. Our Equality and Diversity Group, Student Services and the Student Union are developing a plan of action as a response to this appalling event, subsequent protests and as part of our ongoing commitment to addressing inequality and promoting a fair culture. It’s the actions that we take rather than the statements that we make that are critical now.
The challenges due to COVID-19 have continued, as I know they will have for all our partners. At Richmond upon Thames College the College leadership has been swift to respond to emerging information and advice from the government. Our staff switched to remote teaching and learning quickly and some examples of their great work are included below. Our IT team has worked to ensure that students who required laptops were supported and - because the College never closed to our vulnerable students - our student support team has been on hand both virtually and physically if needed providing advice and support.
In addition to the great work undertaken by our staff in terms of teaching and learning, we are finalising packing up equipment from our old building and moving this to our new building ready for when students can return to the college and use our fantastic new facilities.
Remote Teaching and Learning
Over the last couple of months, our students and staff have excelled in remote teaching and learning. Students got creative in using items in their house to produce rainbow photographs, shot their own short films starring their families, and the delivery of our Engineering apprenticeship was praised by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB).
Dawn Thompson, Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) Senior Account Manager, said, “I’d like to congratulate Richmond upon Thames College for their rapid response to the chaotic world we find ourselves in. We know from talking to other employers and training providers that they have experienced challenges in delivering certain apprenticeships during lockdown and in some cases, apprentices are being furloughed in these challenging circumstances. So, to hear that Richmond upon Thames College switched almost immediately to virtual delivery to ensure that the apprentices continued to be trained is fantastic news.”
Jordi Clancy, one of our apprentices working at global engineering company, Worley, has found the transition to learning from home to be very smooth, with online sessions available as soon as the lockdown was announced. He said, “The appropriate learning resources were made available via Moodle [the college’s virtual learning environment] in good time, with lecturers offering consistent support to supplement the material. Remote learning has provided the same quality of teaching as in-class learning, but from the comfort of my own home, with no need for travel.”
New College Campus and re-opening of the campus
We plan to begin reopening the College from Monday 15 June. However, that reopening will be gradual. Our top priority will be to keep our students and staff safe. We have decided that the best way to do this will be by keeping the number of students and staff in college to a minimum and for the shortest time possible, at least to begin with. Group sizes will therefore be small. We will stagger start and finish times to avoid our staff and students who use public transport travelling at peak times. At all times we will be following the latest government guidance on the on-going pandemic and its implications for education and training.
Virtual Open Event
We are excited to announce that our first Virtual Open Event will take place on Wednesday 24 June 2020. Prospective students and their parents will be offered as many features of a physical Open Event as possible from their own home. On the College’s Open Event webpage, visitors can listen to a talk by Jason Jones, Deputy Principal & CEO (Curriculum & Quality), download the presentation and experience our new campus building through a photo gallery. In addition, quick links to useful pages will be provided and prospective students can register for a virtual curriculum information session.
These virtual curriculum sessions will take place at 3pm, 3.30pm, 4pm and 4.30pm and each session will be hosted on Microsoft Teams by staff from each curriculum area. Visitors will be able to hear from lecturers about our courses, levels and progression and use the chat function to ask questions, giving them the same opportunities and a similar experience to an Open Event.
Our STEM Centre plans are progressing well. The building will showcase STEM activities and create a flexible learning environment that supports a range of different learning styles and will be adaptable to the curricula that are being taught which include:
- Carpentry and Joinery
- Robotic and Prototype testing
- Fabrication and Welding
- Electrical Installation and Electronics to support hybrid car technology
- Computer Aided Design (CAD)
- Forensics with a Crime Scene room
- Plumbing, Heating and Ventilation
It will embody innovation and technology and create a healthy learning environment to promote wellbeing. I look forward to updating you on our future plans.
We continue to work with the Further Education Commissioner on improving the College’s financial position and ensuring that we continue to deliver high quality teaching and learning that meets the needs of our employers and stakeholders. The Structure and Prospects Appraisal process, temporarily paused due to Covid19, has now recommenced and is due to conclude in the Autumn term.
Our plans for enrolment are being developed and we are looking forward to welcoming all our new and continuing students back in September.
Prospective students can still apply online for a place in September 2020 and join the first cohort of students to benefit from Phase 1 of our spectacular new £80 million building development and our dedicated team of expert teachers and support staff.
I look forward to offering a further update at the start of next term. Until then I wish you all the very best for the summer months.
Every week, the Jack Petchey Foundation features voices of outstanding young people on their blog to share their thoughts and experiences while socially distancing. Our college works closely with the Jack Petchey Foundation and awards outstanding students with the Jack Petchey Achievement Award each term.
In May, Suhaana, one of our Level 2 Performing and Production Arts students, was featured twice on their blog, giving stay at home advice and sharing her thoughts during Mental Health Awareness Week. In November 2019, Suhaana was awarded with a Jack Petchey Achievement Award for her open and welcoming attitude towards others and passion for her course projects, always completing work ahead of time.
In her stay at home blog post, Suhaana said, “I remember the day when lockdown was announced, and college closed. So many questions were racing through my mind: What will I do now? How will I rehearse for my final college performance? How will I get my coursework done? I was panicking again, then I reminded myself to stay calm because panicking won’t get me anywhere, it will only make things worse. I also remembered that, I was not alone in this situation and my other classmates will be thinking the same thing. That is a key point to remember during this time: You are never alone. Eventually I found an answer to all the questions my mind was asking and now I am studying safely at home with all my teachers to support me online.
“When I started isolating at home, the first question I asked myself was: how am I going to stay occupied and busy during lockdown? I’m not too much of a going out person as I am a staying home person, but I must say I do love my daily trips to the bank, seeing my friends, going to college, and going to Waterstones to read and discover new romance stories! But now I can’t do any of those activities and at first I was struggling with lockdown because of this situation.
“Then it came to me: I can focus on my creative writing and develop my stories, I could also practise my piano and learn new songs, read some more books, watch more films and I could do some baking! So now during lockdown, I am doing all these activities alongside taking little walks for fresh air to keep myself busy and occupied during lockdown. So my advice to you will be to think to yourself: What is it I love to do? What makes me happy and keeps a smile on my face? Whether it’d be spending time with your loved ones, taking a little walk, facetiming your friends, jamming out to music, or even trying new things, if it puts a smile on your face then do it!
“Spending time with your family and friends is the best way to get through these tough times and it definitely has helped me. I know with all the social distancing, it can be hard to meet up with your friends and family in person, but there is always a way you can stay connected with them so that you are never alone, whether that would be facetiming, talking on the phone, and even texting them.”
In her Mental Health Awareness Week blog post, Suhaana also highlighted how “talking to loved ones and friends, listening to music, reading books, writing stories/scripts, playing piano, watching fun things on YouTube, taking a hot shower, and drinking tea” helped her to not get overwhelmed or anxious.
Reflecting on mental health, Suhaana said, “I want you to remember to never be afraid of trying out new techniques to help you cope with your mental health and also never be afraid to try anything new! And remember that, during this time or any time, you are never alone because we’re all in this together and we will get through it together!”