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Coronavirus Q&A guidance: what you need to know

Updated: 06/03/2020

Updated: July 24th 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.

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.
  • 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 available for people who are not online. Only call 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.

What is happening with enrolment for new and returning students this summer?

The College is still accepting applications for courses starting this September 2020. The way that we will enrol for this September will be different as we continue to put your safety, and that of the general public’s, first.

To reduce the number of people on campus at any one time, whilst continuing to offer an excellent student experience, the enrolment process will take place online this year. 

By mid-August 2020, applicants will receive a letter with all of the details. If you have any questions or difficulties accessing the online system, please contact admissions@sheffcol.ac.uk so they can support you through the process.

You will then need to book a slot to come into the College to show us your exam certificates. Please note that there will be a minimal number of people attending the College per slot and social distancing measures will be in place throughout.

Once you have enrolled with us, and your grades have been checked, you will receive information about your online induction and getting started with us. This will include details about creating your college email account as well as information about your timetable and course induction.

Your induction to the College and your study programme will be delivered online. Some curriculum areas will also expect students to attend a face-to-face session on campus. For example, this may be to go through health and safety requirements in a workshop, salon or kitchen environment.

If you are a returning student, will also ask you to re-enrol online and contact you soon about that. If you are not able to re-enrol online for any reason, then please contact admissions@sheffcol.ac.uk.

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.

What will teaching and learning be like for the next academic year starting September 2020?

Every step is being taken to ensure that our campuses are as safe as possible, based on a thorough college-wide risk assessment. Consequently, things will look a little different in the new academic year 2020/21.

Next term, to help keep everyone safe, there will be fewer face-to-face and more online learning sessions in addition to independent study, including virtual learning.

All of our programmes will have some lessons on college campuses, to ensure that you have met your teachers and the other students in your group and to help you feel part of our vibrant college community.

During the first term, from September to December 2020, the majority of our programmes will be based on blended learning to ensure that we provide a safe environment.

This means that our teaching will be a combination of three approaches: 

  1. Face-to-face lessons on campus
  2. Face-to-face lessons delivered remotely, for example, using a video chat function
  3. Self-directed, independent study and learning

The balance will depend on the subject that you study. For example, programmes with a higher level of technical skills such a construction trade, dentistry, hair and beauty, and performing arts, will require more face-to-face learning sessions to develop those skills.

Programmes of study that are more knowledge based, such as A Levels, will have more face-to-face online learning sessions and independent study.

We will continue to review the College’s next steps for the second term, in line with public health guidance, and keep you updated on any changes to the way that we plan to deliver learning.

Other aspects of what we do will be provided using these different approaches. For example, tutorial support will be provided online during the first term.

In terms of work related experience and activity, we are currently unable to send students into the workplace for industry placements or industry tasters.

However, it is vital to keep building skills to make you employable. Therefore we will deliver an employability skills package through face-to-face online learning sessions and virtual content. We hope to be able to offer placements again after December 2020.

Do any students need to return to College this academic year 2019/20?

Student and staff safety remains our number one priority. A very small number of students have needed to return to campus to complete their courses.

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 are 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.

Which courses have some students who need to return before the end of this academic year?

The following courses (see below) have had some priority students whom we have emailed asking them to return.

Please note that not every student studying the courses below has needed 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) 

What safety measures have been put in place for students who have needed to return this academic year?

We are doing everything we can to support you and your future career ambitions whilst keeping you and our staff safe.

Every step has been taken to ensure that those students who have needed to return to campus, before the end of this academic year, have been able to do so safely. To watch our brief safety video, please click here.

The safety measures include:

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

We will continue to assess the situation and review our plans and safety steps for re-opening in September 2020 according to the latest government guidance.

What will students need to do differently when the College re-opens in September 2020? 

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

This 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.

You’ll need to leave campus immediately after classes, use the stairs rather than lifts and make sure tables and surfaces are left clear.

Based on current social distancing recommendations, from September 2020, we may need to introduce 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, for the small number of students who have had to return, will stay in place, for example, one-way systems, hand sanitisation and cleaning.

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.

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

Yes, both nurseries are open to open to three and four-year-olds as well as key worker and vulnerable children.

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 is happening to exam results?

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.

Where can I get more mental health information and support?

Where can I find more general 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.