Further to our last update on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, please see the information below with regard to the current picture, nationally and locally:
On the 18th March, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all educational establishments in the UK will close to the majority of students from Friday afternoon for an indefinite period, to slow down the spread of the virus and to maximise the capacity of the NHS to cope with the increased demand on its services. In addition to this, as a provider of education to adult learners (post-18) we are required to comply with the published Government guidance on social distancing to protect vulnerable adults, which sets out measures for limitation on social interaction for “those who are under 70 with an underlying health condition” in which one of the categories is “chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy”. Measures include avoiding non-essential use of public transport, avoiding large gatherings and avoiding gatherings in small spaces. Furthermore, NHS Coronavirus guidance published specifically for Mental Health, Learning Disabilities and Autism, states that actions should be taken at a local level to do what works best for your vulnerable groups, citing that “people with a learning disability may also be vulnerable due to having a higher risk of respiratory issues”.
Local picture at Transition2
As of 20th March, half of T2’s learner cohort have already decided to self-isolate due to underlying health conditions, or the vulnerability/illness of others living within their family home. We also have several staff self-isolating due to elderly and vulnerable people within their immediate families who are at a high risk should the virus be contracted. In addition to this, we have a number of parents/carers who are concerned about the welfare of their young adult given their challenges with personal hygiene. We have also seen a recent escalation in behaviours due to changes in routines relating to safe methods of greeting each other, the need to increase hand hygiene, the closure of community venues for timetabled activities and the socially challenging environments resulting from members of the public panic-buying within shops and supermarkets. Learners who already find changes to routine difficult or who follow strict diets due to limited food preferences (with rapidly reducing product choices available in shops) are beginning to express their frustrations in ways that may put themselves and/or others at risk, thereby increasing the volatility of the College environment and the requirement for additional staffing at a time when staff numbers are concurrently reducing due to social distancing measures.
In response to the relevant guidelines, recent developments across our learner and staff cohort, and in an attempt to safeguard all our College community against serious clinical risks, the Senior Leadership Team have notified learners and families that Transition2 will close from 3:15pm on Friday 20th March until further notice. College will be closed to learners until at least Monday 20th April, although the closure period may extend beyond this date, in response to further Government announcements and emerging learner/staff wellbeing, in the coming weeks. Please note that all review meetings have been postponed until the College reopens at the earliest opportunity.
We appreciate the increased demands this closure will place on families and we will endeavor to continue to offer pastoral support through the usual channels via named Keyworkers and communication with learners’ circle of support. In addition, person-centred, bespoke activities which can be undertaken by learners and parents/carers within the home, to maintain a degree of focus on maximising learners’ self-management and independent living skills, will be sent home by post and via email at the point of closure on Friday 20th March. As well as supporting with aspects of independent living skills and self-management, we are kindly asking families to support our young adults to continue with their daily exercise routines wherever possible and to get as much fresh air as they can, for example having an afternoon hot chocolate in the garden. Learners are all familiar with Joe Wicks’ videos and we are asking parents/carers to take a few minutes each day to undertake the activities on the website links below:
Finally, we fully understand that there will be increased financial burdens on days where learners would usually be in College, for example with meal and utility costs. Learners will obviously not bring in their weekly money, which will help to pay for some of their meals at home, but we will also be supporting learners to withdraw some of their ‘savings’ from their learner bank here in College, to provide additional money for food, heating and provisions within the home. This extra money will be distributed directly to families in cash by Sunday 22nd March.
We will contact learners and families with more information about reopening our College as soon as this becomes available.
In the meantime, Thank You for your understanding, support and cooperation in this very unusual situation in which we are all required to think carefully about ways to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone.