An app has been developed to help colleges forecast the spread of Covid-19 and keep buildings open for as many students as possible.
Developed by the University of Exeter, working with Petroc College and the Association of Colleges and supported by City and Guilds, the app analyses individual college data according to the choices they have made on variables such as class-based bubbles, larger year group bubbles and attendance on different days.
The tool also allows the user to input community infection rates and information about how they are running their institution to forecast how many people may need to self-isolate and other steps they can take to minimise disruption.
The app is still in its beta edition, but after a successful trial period with several colleges, it's available to every further education setting in the country for free.
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Sean Mackney, principal at Petroc College, said that the app has allowed the college to control infection and minimise the numbers who would self-isolate.
He said: “The flexibility of this app is its greatest asset and can provide useful forecasts for different approaches for different cohorts of learners and to see the combined effect at college level.
"The app has helped inform our decisions about bubbles, social distancing in teaching spaces and the timetable. It allowed us to us control infection and minimise the numbers who would self-isolate.
"As you can set your own variables, it is also useful to see whether the approach we took when community cases were 10 per week will still be the best ones to take if we were seeing 200 cases a week – so we can use it to revisit the way we set up our college to be sustainable, stable and safe, whatever the external context.”
David Corke, director of education and skills policy at the AoC, said that keeping students and staff safe was the number one priority.
He said: “We hope this new app will give schools and colleges the confidence to work from the data they input and make timely and sensible decisions on safety measures, the amount of blended learning they provide and keep students and parents informed of any changes quickly.
"Keeping students and staff safe is the number one priority and the new online tool will give colleges an indication of when and if they need to change tack in dealing with coronavirus.”