Just thinking ahead9th March 2020
Thank you for your efforts this week. The weather has been a little bit better and, as a consequence, the atmosphere around the building has been a little bit more relaxed. It’s great when the students can get out and have some fresh air at break time. In that vein, it’s great to be able to arrive at college just as it’s getting light on a morning and then, on most days, go home when it’s still light – even if that’s just for a few minutes or so. That warmer weather, those brighter days and the prospect of a decent springtime make us all feel that bit better.
I know, and it is understandable, that it is impossible to avoid news reports and briefings about the coronavirus. It will be what it is but it does seem to be now inevitable that we will face an epidemic being called for the UK and, in some way, we will all be affected by the virus. Reading news reports and reading the briefings coming from Public Health England and the Department for Education it has struck me how important the education sector is when we have something of a national crisis. We have the obvious conversations / debates about whether schools and colleges should close. We, at Thomas Rotherham College, will take direction from the Department for Education if, or as and when.
More broadly though, I have been thinking about how important it is that the education sector plays its part in times of crisis. The college has become the foremost conduit for spreading community information. We are working with our young people, educating them in good hygiene and around what measures they all need to take to secure themselves. We are all also using our methods of communication, be that the website, letters, texts or one-to-one conversations, to educate and inform the wider community of the necessary measures to be taken; in addition to general information about good hygiene and good practice. Schools and colleges do represent the central / focal point for a community and community information.
The debate over whether schools and colleges should close will continue. We will take our direction if, or as and when. I get the argument that young people do not seem as susceptible to the virus. I understand the view that we have a responsibility to stay open as a community responsibility; ensuring that the students are well looked after and allowing parents and carers to continue to work in vital services, such as the NHS.
All that said, it is worthwhile us all now thinking about how we might continue to support and educate our young people in the event of a temporary closure of college. We have some technology which should allow us to make daily contact with our students. We as professionals understand that, even though the institution as a building may well have to close, we remain at work and we know we have a professional and moral responsibility to ensure that some education provision continues. We will, no doubt, have to deliver that educational provision from our homes but we will recognise and prepare for the fact that we will have to work on a daily basis, in some way, for our young people. That is the professional thing to do; that is the right thing to do.
For now, there is nothing to react to, however it would be wise to start considering what resources we might be able to mobilise, which can be accessed remotely, that would offer that element of support and some degree of educational provision in the event of the college (as a building) having to close.
We look to the immediate future with a degree of trepidation and without a degree of certainty. As always, we all associated with Thomas Rotherham College will rise to the challenges we face with a strength of purpose and a conviction that we need to do the right thing by and for our students and for our communities. We will continue to offer the highest possible educational provision in whatever circumstances prevail.
Thank you once again for your continued commitment to the college and its wider community.
‘There is no education like adversity’. Benjamin Disraeli