The pandemic has seen colleges across the nation spring into action, and Bridgwater & Taunton College (BTC) is no exception. Due to the diverse skill set within the College and its ability to adapt, it has responded in a proactive and positive manner to support students, apprentices, staff, employer partners and the local community.
As the country went into lockdown, the College worked with partners to repurpose its residential accommodation on the outskirts of Taunton so that some of Somerset’s most vulnerable residents could be provided with food, shelter and support.
In order to support our NHS, the College donated hundreds of items of PPE to the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust including gloves, gowns and FFp3 valve dolomite respirators. The College’s 3D printers have also been set to work, creating protective visors for NHS staff and volunteers working at Musgrove Park Hospital.
In an effort to bring comfort to patients at Musgrove Park Hospital during this difficult time, the College has donated tablets to the hospital. The tablets have an app installed so that patients and loved ones can video call each other free of charge and stay better connected.
The BTC Creative Arts department have been collecting materials and donating domestic sewing machines to volunteers to sew scrubs and masks for community use with the group called ‘The Taunton Scrubbers’. The College’s catering team has supported the opening of a new community shop run by volunteers, whilst the Business Development Team have been working remotely to support and advise the College’s employer partners.
Principal Andy Berry said,
I’m extremely proud of how well our students and staff have adjusted to the ‘new normal’. Most are working from home but there are some staff attending College to fulfil essential roles such as looking after our animal collection, continuing milk production at our Farm and carrying out essential maintenance. Staff have also attended College to support our most vulnerable students and students whose parents or carers are key workers.” He continued, “We also continue to lead the way in delivery of online education, where ever possible we’ve moved to delivering our lessons online and expanded our wellbeing services to ensure both staff and students are well supported. We’re not stopping there, we are making plans to invest over £400,000 in digital learning technologies over the coming months to ensure we can provide the best possible learning experience for our students.
BTC continues to deliver world-class education and has successfully converted courses to remote classroom settings. Where needed, staff have engaged in continuous professional development to enable a smooth transition to online learning. A Level student Ryan Skone commented,
Learning from home has definitely been challenging but my Tutors have been amazing; they’ve given me emotional support, run lessons online and given me one-to-one tutorials to keep me on track.
Bex Miller, International Baccalaureate Course Leader said
I am so grateful for the way in which the College has prioritised staff and student wellbeing alongside academic progress; the academic development of students is still at the centre of everything. They have been an absolute credit to themselves and the College – embracing new ways of learning, completing a range of new tasks, whilst maintaining their drive and enthusiasm. I am so happy to be part of BTC; I live on my own, and not a day of lockdown has gone by without at least one colleague messaging or face-timing to catch up, and this sense of community has made the past weeks immeasurably more manageable, encouraging and happy.
Vocational and leisure subjects are also continuing to be taught, including subjects ranging from automotive to gardening. This has enabled staff to continue supporting students and apprentices, and provided them with an outstanding level of education.
The College is also proud of students and staff who are volunteering alongside their study and work commitments. Acts of kindness have included calls to regular customers of the College’s Quantock Restaurant for a friendly chat, apprentices volunteering at local care homes, staff members voluntarily helping their local community by picking up groceries, prescriptions and helping run community volunteer-led shops.
As we turn towards September, we are exploring ways in which we can open the College safely and we are encouraging people to apply as soon as possible to ensure we have everything in place to support them at the beginning of term.