On 23 March, the UK Government made the announcement that all schools must close to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. In response to this, we closed our doors and made the move to online learning while we waited for updates from the government. This has been and is a time of uncertainty, and as such we do not yet know when we will be able to reopen fully. We can, however, assure our students and their families that as soon as it is safe to do so, we will be ready to greet you here in Cambridge. In view of this, in today’s blog I want to set out what we’ve put into place to ensure your safety and peace of mind when we open our Cambridge headquarters, and also what we have available for you to book in the meantime.
In the Covid-19 era, it is important for schools and businesses to devise plans of action for reopening and risk assess these arrangements. With this in mind, we have devised a 10-point operational plan that will be kept in place while the threat of coronavirus is sufficiently high. This plan has been considered not only in accordance with UK Government guidelines but also our internal risk assessments. Whether we implement all or some of these will be dependent on the level of risk at the time. You can find more detailed information about this plan on our website, and information about the procedure, social distancing and the use of protective equipment can also be found on signage in all classrooms when you return to our school. As well as devising our Covid-19 procedures, we have trained our staff extensively to ensure that they are prepared to return to face-to-face work.
To take you through our operational plan in a bit more detail, it can be separated into 4 subsections: school organisation, capacity adjustment, hygiene and disinfection and extensive training. We have overhauled our usual arrangements for each of these areas to prepare for work in the current circumstances. In terms of the organisation of our school, we have thought through each and every step of our students’ visits to us and considered how we can maintain social distancing. All staff and students should therefore keep a distance of 2 metres between them and others at all times. Our reception, classrooms and public spaces have all been adapted and rearranged to allow for this – you can expect furniture to be more spaced out than usual. We will also be minimising the number of high-touch items, such as shared coursebooks, that are used in class. Most importantly, we will be operating ‘social-bubbling’, a system in which staff and students are placed into small ‘bubbles’ who may socialise with one another while maintaining social distancing. These bubbles will be kept for the duration of student stays and they are to be maintained in accommodation, excursions, group activities and transfers.
When thinking about adjusting our capacity, we have decided to reduce maximum class sizes to allow for social distancing. Students will be seated in their bubbles which allows them to maintain interaction with one another in the classroom. Group size adjustment will continue out of the classroom as we reduce the number of students on excursions. To help us manage these adjustments, we will be operating a ‘zig-zag’ timetable which includes staggered breaks, to reduce congestion in our public spaces and to allow distancing even in the WC’s. Thinking about activities specifically, we have altered the timetables to include excursions that don’t require close contact.
Hygiene and disinfection are extremely important so that our students and staff can continue to stay safe in school. We have made sanitiser stations available in our lobby and in all rooms. All lunches are made externally in a safe setting and will be individually bagged. Our building will also be robustly cleaned in its entirety on a daily basis. Not only this, but any classroom surfaces and other high-touch points will be sanitised at changeover times. We will also carry out cleaning of our WC’s before and after breaks.
I have already touched on our extensive training procedure, but to expand: our staff are aware of the symptoms of Covid-19, as well as how to act if someone becomes unwell in school. All students will also undergo training in the form of an induction when they come to the school. Our staff and students should therefore all be on the same page when it comes to steps to ensure everyone remains safe in our school.
Now that I’ve outlined what we’re going to be doing when our Cambridge school reopens, I want to let you know what you can do right now. ABC LIVE, our online school, is open for business right now, and you can start any week. If you want to learn more about ABC LIVE, you can read my blog where I cover exactly what we can offer you. Although we have had to cancel our Summer School this year for face-to–face teaching, our online summer school will be up and running between 15 June and 14 August. There is more information on our website about this. If you want to book in-person learning for 2020, we are offering both adult group classes and private family courses from 7 September, but keep an eye on the website in case we are able to resume these earlier than planned. We will also be resuming the running of our Group Study Holidays for groups of 10 or more students from 7 September, and you can learn more about these on our website too.
I hope that this blog has offered some clarity and reassurance as to how we will be operating when it’s safe to resume our face-to-face courses. As well as our exciting online school, the ABC Languages team are working behind the scenes to ensure that our 2020/21 in-person learning opportunities are the best they can be. If you have any questions about learning online with us or booking for our upcoming courses, please get in touch.
Allegra Goodwin, Student Experience Manager