Coleg Cambria staff unhappy with protections against coronavirus
A North Wales college has moved some of its learning online after unions were called in by staff,
One lecturer said some workers at Coleg Cambria’s sites are “terrified” of catching coronavirus and claimed cases among staff and students are “rising daily”.
The college group said in a statement there had been “no significant growth in numbers of staff or students with the coronavirus” but wanted to protect staff and students via the move online.
It said only a “small number of students tested positive” for the virus.
Staff at Coleg Cambria, which operates on six sites across north-east Wales in Ruthin, Wrexham, Connah’s Quay and Northop, called in the University and College Union (UCU) and the NASUWT over their fears.
A number of lecturers and other staff across the campuses, which cater for adult learners, agricultural and sixth form students, have been annoyed over what they see as inadequate protections for them.
Students are not mandated to wear masks in class settings, although they must do so in corridors and communal areas, said a lecturer.
In addition it is claimed some teaching staff are told to stay socially distanced from students inside small boxed areas, marked on classroom floors with tape, as their only protection against transmission.
A lecturer, who asked not to be named, claimed there is a lack of information, adding that “18 staff” were currently confirmed Covid-19 positive -which the college has declined to confirm or deny.
The lecturer said: “Cases among staff and students are increasing daily yet the college gives staff no official confirmation of any of them and refuses to lock down any bubbles.
“They say it’s down to track and trace to inform us. Staff are absolutely terrified as it’s only a matter of time until we all catch Covid.
“Some of us will face very serious consequences if Welsh Government don’t realise further education colleges aren’t schools.”
UCU Coleg Cambria branch secretary David Schwarz said: “It is unacceptable that staff feel they are being put at risk.
“The college now need a long-term plan for a substantial reduction of face-to-face teaching.”
The spokeswoman for Coleg Cambria said: “A small number of students tested positive for Covid-19 and, in accordance with guidelines from Public Health Wales, self-isolated at home.
“The college continues to work with staff and unions to ensure the health and safety of all students, employees and visitors.”
Coleg Cambria later announced it would “move some face-to-face lectures to self-directed study and remote delivery”.
Chief Executive Yana Williams said: “Currently there is no significant growth in numbers of our staff or students with the coronavirus, or with symptoms and self-isolating.
“However, the measures taken locally and their impact on the college have led us to review our risk assessments.
“As a result, we will reduce some face to face teaching for a period of time.
“We hope that moving to remote and self-directed study for the week before half term will significantly reduce the number of students and staff on site for a two week period.
“It will also go some way to address the current heightened anxiety caused by the growth of local cases of Covid-19.”
The college group hopes “most students” will return to face to face studies on November 2, but the decision will be reviewed in line with “local and national guidelines”.
The NASUWT has also been asked to comment.
Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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