Leicester College takes ‘difficult decision to close’ in local lockdown

Leicester College is to close from today as part of the country’s first localised lockdown following a flare-up of Covid-19 cases in the area.

On Monday evening health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that the seven day infection rate is 135 cases per 100,000 people in Leicester, which is three times higher than the next highest city.

He then announced the closure of non-essential retail and schools in the area from Thursday  to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Leaders of Leicester College, the only general FE college in the area, met yesterday to discuss how they should proceed and have today confirmed they have closed all of their buildings.

Principal Verity Hancock said: “Leicester College has taken the difficult decision to close from July 1 due to the reimposed lockdown conditions. The situation will be reviewed in two weeks, in line with government advice.

“This is very disappointing news for staff, students and apprentices who have worked so hard to prepare for important assessments and exams, but we must play our part in keeping everyone safe and helping to beat this latest COVID-19 outbreak.”

She added the college will continue to prepare for what they “all hope” will be a full reopening in September.

All colleges closed to all but vulnerable students and children of key workers on March 23 but were allowed to begin reopening to more students from June 15 as national lockdown measures eased.

Leicester College started its wider reopening on June 24 by inviting students and apprentices “who are required to complete a practical or written assessment, under strict conditions”.

The college had carried out a deep clean of all buildings, installed screens at visitor/information desks and hand sanitisers around campuses, with one-way systems being created to allow for social distancing.

Classrooms had also been assessed and capacity in rooms was reduced to ensure appropriate social distancing measures.

Further information on the college’s website about the local lockdown states that all assessments are “now postponed” and “if you have previously been contacted to come into college you should not”.

Gateway Sixth Form College is also based in Leicester and has also decided to close following the spike in Covid-19 cases.

Principal James Bagley told FE Week: “We will continue to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our community and to do all we can to ensure that infection rates are brought back under control.

“It is with regret that this will probably mean the college will not now open to students prior to the start of next academic year.

“Pastoral and curriculum staff will continue to support learners remotely, as they have done since the college closed to students in March.”

Government guidance for educational and childcare settings affected by the Leicester lockdown can be found here.