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Coronavirus Q&A guidance: what you need to know

Updated: 06/03/2020

Updated: July 3rd 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. To watch our brief safety video, please click here.

  • 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.

A very small number of students will need to return to campus before the end of term to complete their courses.

  • Olive Grove Campus has re-opened to a very small number of students since Monday, June 22nd 2020.
  • City Campus has re-opened to a very small number of students since Monday, June 29th 2020.

Returning students have been contacted and given a timetable with a specific time slot for when to return as well as advice on safety measures. 

They have been sent a link to their timetables, a Covid-19 Student Charter, floor plans of the campuses and a fit to study declaration, which they must sign before returning to the College.

Every step has been taken to ensure that those students who do need to return will be able to do so safely, and social distance during their time on campus.

Please do not come back onto campus at any point unless you have received an email via your college account asking you to do so.

The Department for Education (DfE) has released some guidance for FE colleges and providers about the new academic year 2020/21.

We will take this into consideration during our planning, and will release more information in due course. The DfE guidance can be found by clicking here.

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 and safety measures following a thorough risk assessment.

Which courses have some students who need to return before the end of term?

We have published a list of the courses (see below) that have some priority students whom we have emailed asking them to return.

Please note that not every student studying the courses below will need to return.

It is only a very small number of students per course. We have already contacted those who do need to return before the end of this term.

Please also note that this list of courses is subject to change depending on updates from awarding bodies. 

  • Accounting Level 2 (Apprenticeships and Study Programmes)
  • Beauty Therapy Level 2 and 3
  • Brickwork Level 2
  • Carpentry and Joinery Level 3 (Apprenticeships)
  • CIPD (Apprenticeships and Study Programmes)
  • Dental Technology (Year 2, Level 3 and Level 5)
  • Dry Lining Level 2 (Apprenticeships)
  • Electrical Installation Level 2 Level 3
  • Engineering Operations Level 2 (Apprenticeships)
  • Hairdressing (Apprenticeships and Study Programmes)
  • IT Practitioner Level 3 (Apprenticeships)
  • Journalism (Apprenticeships and Facebook Reporter)
  • Motor Vehicle Level 2 and Level 3 (Apprenticeships)
  • Painting and Decorating Level 2
  • Pharmacy Level 3
  • Plastering Level 2
  • Plumbing Level 2 and Level 3 (Apprenticeships and Study Programmes)
  • Sign Making Level 2
  • Software Developer Level 4 (Apprenticeships)
  • Vet Nursing Level 3 (Apprenticeships)
  • Wall and Floor Tiling Level 2 (Apprenticeships) 

If you have any questions, please ask your tutors in the first instance as usual.

What safety measures will be put in place for students who are returning?

Every step has been taken to ensure that those students who do need to return to campus, before the end of this academic year, will be able to do so safely and social distance during their time on campus.

We have a range of safety measures that are being put in place, with a focus initially on those campuses that are re-opening before the end of this term. To watch our brief safety video, please click here.

  • Student timetables for the small number of learners who need to return this term have been planned to ensure that they are on campus for the necessary time only.
  • Our campuses will have marked specific entry and exit points. One-way systems are being introduced, marked with signs. Protective screens are being installed at the reception areas. Classrooms will be opened in advance of lessons to avoid unnecessary queuing or gathering.
  • Hand sanitiser dispensers are being put in receptions, classrooms and refectory areas. Communal areas and classrooms will be cleaned before each teaching session and regularly throughout the day.
  • Floors will be vacuumed or mopped. Surfaces will be cleaned and bins will be emptied more regularly than usual. In all active classrooms, specialist wipes will be available to clean IT equipment.
  • Lifts will be restricted to one person at a time. Priority will be given to those people with limited mobility. Students will be encouraged to use the stairs if they are fit and able to do so.
  • Refectories will be closed. Limited refreshments will be available using contactless payment vending machines. Toilets will be restricted to one person at a time.

We will continue to assess the situation and review our plans and safety steps according to the latest government guidance.

What do we need to do differently when we return? 

We’ve introduced a Covid-19 Student Charter that clarifies our expectations of students so that we can work together and follow social distancing rules.

It includes guidance on staying two metres away from others at all times, regularly using hand sanitiser in college, staying in your allocated zone and classroom, leaving college immediately after classes, bringing food and drink in if possible, using the stairs rather than lifts and making sure tables and surfaces are left clear.

How should we travel to the College safely?

Where possible, we are encouraging students to walk, cycle or drive to our campuses. If this is not possible, and you must use public transport, please ensure that you follow the latest government guidelines.

This includes wearing a face covering and maintaining a safe distance between you and other passengers.

I'm interested in, or have applied for, a course in September 2020 - what happens next?

We have contacted 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. 

Although this is an uncertain time, you can be confident of our commitment to do everything we can to support you and your future career ambitions. 

The College offers a wide range of courses from entry through to including university level qualifications. Places are still available for this September 2020.

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

What is happening about enrolment for the next academic year 2020/21?

The College has invested in a new system, which is currently in development, to enable us to enrol new students online.

This will dramatically reduce the volumes of people needed on site and provide a better experience for applicants and new students.

The system should be ready for testing in mid-July and we will update you further about this when we have more information.

We will also, shortly, be launching a platform that we have developed internally that will allow progressing and returning students to enrol remotely. It is anticipated that this will be live by next week.

What will teaching and learning be like in the next academic year 2020/21?

We are continuing to monitor government guidance to ensure that we create a safe learning environment.

Attending College has many learning and social benefits, helping students to develop self-confidence as well as employability, academic and vocational skills. We also recognise that has to be balanced with wider public health guidance.

We are planning to offer students some face-to-face teaching as well as some virtual/remote learning.

Based on current social distancing recommendations, from September 2020, we will need to consider introducing social bubbles, for example, smaller class groups.

We are also looking at plans to stagger student timetables so that we manage the number of learners on site at any point in the day and avoid large gatherings outside of classrooms, by the lift areas and in the refectories.

We anticipate that all of the health and safety measures currently in place this summer will stay in place, for example, one-way systems, hand sanitisation and cleaning.

Once we have more information on the next phase of our plans from September 2020, and any new updated government guidance that affects that, we will share that with you.

Are the College's nurseries at City Campus and Hillsborough Campus open?

  • City nursery: We have extended our provision at City, to open to three and four-year-olds - in the first instance - in addition to continuing to look after key worker and vulnerable children.
  • Hillsborough nursery: We have re-opened at Hillsborough to key worker and vulnerable children, and have extended our provision there to three and four-year-olds in the first instance.

Our top priority continues to be the safety of our children, their parents and carers, and our staff, and our decisions are guided by the latest local public health advice for Sheffield, as well as government guidance.

Sheffield’s Director of Public Health has confirmed that schools and childcare settings can begin to open more widely, in a measured way, due to a fall in local daily Covid-19 cases, an increase in testing capacity and the mobilisation of a contact tracing system.

For more details, please click here. In order to operate safely, we have updated our procedures, which now include new parent and carer drop off arrangements, and revised health and hygiene protocols.

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


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 via online learning and one-to-one tutoring via online channels such as Skype.

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.

Please email employer@sheffcol.ac.uk if you have any queries or concerns

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.

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.