Return to College - September 2020: FAQs for students and parents/carers

The health, safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and visitors is our priority. Over the summer holidays we have been busy implementing systems and processes for a safe return for all students to college in September. 

We continue to follow government advice and adhere to the Department for Education guidance to ensure our campus is as safe as possible and minimise the risk to everyone onsite.

PPE UPDATE (Friday 9th October 2020):

The only exemption for not wearing PPE is for medical grounds (proof needed) or if it inhibits communication/classroom working with students.

Students are now expected to wear masks in communal areas of their zones where they are able/can manage this. QAC can supply disposable masks for students who may forget to bring one.

  • In classrooms, PPE can be used with a degree of discretion for the best interests and support of students and each other. Different students will have different needs, and this is respected and worked around by those staff that know the students well.
  • In communal places (within zones), we should expect students to wear PPE if this is possible, and always worn by staff.
  • Personal Care is full PPE, always.
  • If you are travelling between zones, wear a mask.
  • If you are going into zones from another zone, wear a mask. If you know you will be touching surfaces across zones, wear gloves.
  • If you are working with/supporting a student who may be unknowingly (and on some occasions unexpectedly) travelling between zones, wear a mask.
  • If you are working very closely with students in social areas such as for lunch, wear a mask and gloves.
  • Wipe down desk and table surfaces.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Read the signs that are all over College with regards to PPE and safety.
  • Politely remind each other to ‘PPE UP’!

A message for our returning students from Bev Jessop, QAC Principal and Chief Executive (recorded on Friday 11th September 2020):

Please find below FAQs which aims to provide students, parents and carers with as much information, advice and support as possible in readiness for the autumn term.  

When does the Autumn Term start?
All new students will start on Wednesday 9 September and all returning students will come back on either Monday 14 September or Wednesday 16 September (the evening before if residential).

Further information about College start dates will be communicated to parents/carers by tutors. Term dates for 2020/21 can be found our website here

Will the College reception be open?
No, the College reception will not be open to students. We want to restrict the number of people accessing the campus, so we are closing the main reception area to minimise situations that pose the threat of cross-contamination.

What is the procedure for arriving at College?
Students and their families will be assigned and informed of designated ‘drop-off’ and ‘pick up’ points on campus. This will be communicated to you by the College prior to your start date. Students should not access the main reception; this is open to some staff only currently.

What measures have been taken to ensure safety on the College campus?
QAC have updated risk assessments (attached below) in place ensuring the safety of its settings so that measures can be put in place to minimise those risks for students and staff.

Students will stay within their own designated group of students/staff to help minimise contact and mixing between people – keeping to small groups helps minimise the number of people that you are in daily contact with and helps protect you and others. QAC will endeavour to keep groups separate and maintain distance between individuals where possible.

The College has installed signage to facilitate social distancing and remind all staff and learners of the need to maintain social distancing. One-way systems will be in operation (where possible) and floor/wall markings will be used to identify one-way routes. Timetables will try to ensure that movement around the site is kept to a minimum and congested corridors are not created.

Classrooms have been rearranged so that space is optimised with seating and desks separated to help observe social distancing. Hand sanitiser and hand soap will be readily available with regular reminders of the importance of good hand hygiene – the ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ approach will also be promoted.

Antibacterial wipes will be readily available and we have arranged for increased cleaning around the building throughout the day. Anything that has been used should be wiped and disinfected immediately after use.

Windows will be opened (where possible and safe to do so) to improve natural ventilation.

What will learning spaces look like?
We will be establishing ‘Zones’ in which students are grouped together and remain in those groups during the College day. The ‘zone’ concept works as follows:

Upon their arrival, students are immediately taken to their learning space. This learning space is their ‘zone’, and they will remain in it for the duration of the day, with the exception of using toilet facilities or taking part in recreational activities.

Each ‘zone’ will have its own set of additional cleaning materials such as hand sanitiser, antibacterial gel, and antibacterial handwash which will be available to staff and students.

If, for any reason, students need to move around the College, we have implemented one-way systems in corridors to minimise interaction between students in different ‘zones’.

What is a ‘zone’?
A ‘zone’ is a defined group of people that one person comes into contact with regularly. It is essential for individuals to be in only one ‘zone’, and two or more ‘zones’ should not ideally cross. By ensuring that they only have contact within their ‘zone’, individuals are protected against cross-contamination.

Map and directions on site
The main building is open only to staff who regularly work in there. When moving up and down the College campus students and staff will need to follow the pathway that runs alongside the Sports Hall when heading towards the top of site and when coming back down the campus use the route marked out by Oakwood building, using the pathway that goes around the sports field next to Wood Lane (site maps for staff to share details with students will be available in classrooms).

Will staff and students wear masks or PPE?
PPE is essential to keep us all safe and PPE usage is an expectation under Health and Safety at QAC. The only exemption for not wearing PPE is for medical grounds or if it inhibits communication/classroom working with students.

In classrooms, PPE can be used with a degree of discretion for the best interests and support of students and each other. Different students will have different needs, and this is respected and worked around by those staff that know the students well.

In communal places, we should expect students to wear PPE if this is possible, and always worn by staff. 

How will lunchtime work to ensure students are safe?
Lunchtimes will be staggered and students will only eat in identified dining areas with others in their contact group. OCS Foodhouse will be complying with the necessary guidance for food businesses, which has been put in place to ensure safe practice.

We have also created two dining area spaces for lunch so that each zone will not mix with other groups during this period.

Residential Services
We are committed to providing safe accommodation and continue to follow the advice provided by the government, Public Health England and the Department for Education. For further information and support please contact Kimberly Tierney, Residential Services Manager, by email:  

I’m a student and anxious about going into College?
If you have any concerns, please contact us to talk about how we can support you. Tutors, Curriculum Area Managers or Liz Egginton, Assistant Principal Student Services and Safeguarding, are available. Liz can be contacted on 0121 803 5336 or

I’m a parent and really anxious about my child returning to College.
Be assured that QAC will be following Government guidance and taking every precaution to ensure the safety of everyone working within the College. This includes all students, staff and any visitors to QAC.

What can I do to reduce the risks of catching Covid-19?
Please continue to follow government and Public Health England guidelines regarding frequent hand washing and social distancing, and remain aware of potential symptoms of the virus. 

Coivd-19 Symptoms
The symptoms of coronavirus (Covid-19) are:

  • A high temperature
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

If you feel unwell and you think you may have coronavirus, please visit the NHS website for further guidance about what to do next.

What happens if a student shows symptoms of Covid-19 whilst at College?
QAC will be following government guidance if this happens. The student will be isolated on campus and then sent home and asked to follow government guidelines which will include getting a Covid-19 test.

Other students who have been in close contact with them during the day may need to go home if directed. If the test comes back negative, those students will be allowed back on campus. If the test is positive, those students will be asked to self-isolate and be tested themselves.  

What happens if a member of staff shows symptoms of Covid-19?
Any member of staff who shows symptoms while in College will be immediately asked to return home, self-isolate and book a Covid-19 test.

What happens if there is a confirmed case of Covid-19 in College?
All staff and students who are attending an educational setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of Covid-19, and are encouraged to get tested.

Parents and carers can support us by:

  • Ensuring that anyone who has Covid-19 symptoms does not attend College – this means if your child, or someone in your household, has symptoms you should not send them to College.
  • Engaging with the NHS Test and Trace process so that cases can be identified and action taken – this means if your child develops symptoms, you should arrange for them to get a test and you should inform College of the results of the test.

What is the process in the event of an outbreak?
We will continue to follow government and Department for Education guidance. If QAC experiences an outbreak, either because we have two or more confirmed cases of Covid-19 among students or staff within 14 days, or we see an increase in student or staff absence rates due to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, we will need to contact our local Health Protection Team. This team will advise if additional action is required. Closure of the whole College will generally not be necessary.

If our local area sees a spike in infection rates that is resulting in localised community spread, decisions will be made on what measures to implement to help contain the spread. The government will be involved in decisions and will support individual education providers to follow the health advice.

In all cases, where groups of students need to self-isolate or where a larger restriction of attendance at College is needed, QAC will aim to ensure teaching and learning can continue remotely.

Where should I go if I have more questions?
If you can’t find the information you need or if you have a specific question about your individual circumstances please email us:

For the latest information and advice about coronavirus (Covid-19) please visit attached links below:

The Department for Education’s Coronavirus Helpline is available to answer questions regarding education. Students and parents/carers can contact this helpline on 0800 046 8687 (opening hours 8am-6pm Monday-Friday). 

Do you as a parent or carer feel that you need someone to talk to about your child during the return to education phase?
Birmingham Educational Psychology Service is providing a telephone helpline for any parents or carers of children in Birmingham, who feel they would benefit from a consultation with a psychologist to support them with any concerns arising at this time, for them or their families.

The helpline is running until October half term; please find contact details for the different areas of Birmingham attached below. 

Please check this website page and our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) for updates.