Storm Ciarán causes college closures

Colleges in the south of England switch to online learning to protect staff and students

Colleges in the south of England switch to online learning to protect staff and students

Gusts of more than 80 mile an hour winds have forced eight colleges to close their campuses today, as storm Ciarán hit England.

At least six further education colleges shut their doors to ensure students and staff are safe, with another reminding students to “only travel if safe to do so”. Two sixth form colleges closed their doors as well.

Storm Ciarán hit the south, south east and south west of England on Thursday morning, with gusts of up to 85 miles an hour and high rainfall affecting coastal areas especially. The Met Office issued amber and yellow severe weather warnings for areas across the south of England. An amber warning means there is a “potential risk to life and property”. Colleges soon started closing their doors for the day.

Multiple campuses of Chichester College Group, which teaches around 25,000 students, were shut on Thursday, with them all moving their lessons online.

The group closed its colleges in Chichester, Brinsbury, Northbrook, Crawley, and in Haywards Heath, while Brighton Metropolitan College also shut its doors. The college said it would be “open for staff who are able to come in” but that they could also work from home if travel is not possible.

“The safety of our students and our staff is our priority, and while this decision has not been an easy one, we feel it is the right one,” the statement added.

Cornwall College, which has nine campuses and more than 15,000 learners on its books, also closed all campuses apart from those in St Mellion and Lindfield. It also said staff should only travel “when safe to do so”.

Isle of Wight College, which has around 4,000 learners, meanwhile closed its two campuses in Newport and in East Cowes.

Sparsholt College Group, too, shut its doors on Thursday at both its Andover and Sparsholt campuses, and switched its 5,000 leaners to online courses. Julie Milburn, the college’s chief executive, said she is “mindful” that many students and staff travel “significant distances” to the college. 

“[We] want to both keep everyone safe and ensure learning is not disrupted by partial attendance,” she added. The college also cancelled all arranged transport for the day.

The newly formed South Hampshire College Group (SHCG), which has more than 14,000 learners, closed two colleges – City of Southampton College, and Eastleigh College. In a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, City of Southampton College said it was closing “in full”, and that all learning “will be set online for students and apprentices to work on at home”. It advised its students to check their emails for more information. The same applied to Eastleigh College. 

Brockenhurst College, which has more than 8,000 learners, also closed its campus and moved all learning online. In a statement on its website, it said it expects to be open as usual on Friday 3 November.

Though it stayed open, Truro and Penwith College told its 8,000 students in a statement on X to “only travel if safe to do so”. 

Sixth form colleges, including Peter Symonds College, and Itchen College, also closed.

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