Exeter College has defended its coronavirus measures, after a student shared a video and photographs showing a large group of people moving in and around the campus without social distancing.
The student, who asked to remain anonymous, supplied a video to Devon Live showing students – many of whom are wearing face masks – making their way down some stairs crammed together while chatting.
They also shared images of large numbers of students congregating outside an Exeter College building on Queen Street. Many are not wearing PPE despite their close proximity.
The student said they sympathised with vulnerable students as the college was not doing enough to protect them.
“I do have concerns for the vulnerable people that are in my family and I could come into contact with,” said the student.
“I just don’t see why I need to be in college risking my family’s health when I could easily do my work from home as all the work I do at college is on a computer.
“However, I almost feel worse for the students who are vulnerable themselves as all the college does for them is give them a yellow lanyard and tell other students to stay away from people with said lanyard.
“But you can see in the video on the staircase this isn’t possible. I can’t imagine how they feel having to risk their health just to go to college.
“Then seeing this lack of social distancing at college, especially as a student, isn’t going to make me or anyone else want to stay at home when I have finished college as opposed to meeting my friends, which is what me and a lot of other students look forward to after college. In my mind I have already been in close contact with a lot of them at college, so it can easily be seen as okay by lots of students.”
Currently, the Government says it aims ‘that all pupils, in all year groups, remain in school full-time throughout the autumn term’.
It comes at a time when latest figures from NHS Test and Trace show that 167,369 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to November 11 – an 11 per cent rise on the previous week.
It is the highest weekly number since the contact tracing programme was launched at the end of May.
After being asked for a comment by DevonLive, Exeter College insisted its safety measures were up to the task.
“We constantly review the national guidance so that everyone at Exeter College remains safe whilst learners access their education. The Department for Education have been very clear in their expectation that 16-19 learners access the majority of their learning onsite, even during the national lockdown,” said a spokesperson.
“The exception to this is any learner who has received a notification from their doctor or a medical professional to tell them that they are ‘Clinically Extremely Vulnerable’. Currently these individuals have been advised not to attend on-site education. We will endeavour to support them over this limited period remotely as best we can, and to give them any necessary catch-up support on their return when the lockdown ends.
“Passing briefly in a corridor, or stairwell, is classified as low risk and we are happy to see that students are wearing face coverings, in accordance with the rules when in indoor communal areas. We can also assure you that distancing is being adhered to within classrooms and learning spaces. We have also placed several additional ‘pop-up’ seating areas around the college to increase the amount of socially distanced space between lessons and at lunchtime.
“Our Personal Development Programme includes COVID-19 safety as its first priority, including educating and informing our learners on how to be responsible citizens outside of College. We have an active Students’ Union who are keen to support this, and who are working alongside us on a Student COVID-19 Charter to further embed these safety precautions in the mindset and behaviours of our young people.
“Further to this, in response to the latest guidance we have calendared another online delivery week to help strengthen virus control in addition to the week we had following October half term. The means that we have reduced our on-site half term from 7 weeks to 4.5 weeks.
“In addition, where the guidance allows us greater flexibility to reduce the number of people on site, such as for adult learners and apprentices during lockdown, we have done so. We have further increased external social space and are supporting Exeter City Council to appoint City Ambassadors for offsite locations at the busiest times.”