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Colleges have a civic responsibility to support our community in any way we can

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@BordersCollege – at the heart of the Borders community: Reflections on the current COVID-19 crisis

At Borders College, we pride ourselves on being a cornerstone of our community and in these extraordinary times, I have never been more cognisant of our civic responsibility to support our community in any way we can.   

Our staff have demonstrated themselves to be agile and responsive in a crisis, and that strong sense of being one community has shone through. I am incredibly proud of what our staff have done so far, and continue to achieve in supporting our students and the wider community.  

We have redeployed our new state-of-the-art hospital beds, from our Care Hub, to be utilised at the Louisa Jordan hospital in Glasgow. Along with our partner, Heriot-Watt University, we have donated 62,000 items of Personal Protective Equipment, including gloves, aprons and masks, which are being used throughout the Scottish Borders in Care Homes.

As well as continuing to provide learning and student support, a network of College volunteers are supporting our NHS. The partnership between Borders College and NHS Borders has a group of 37 staff and students volunteering on a rota basis to collect and deliver medicines directly to the homes of those identified by the NHS. To date, over 137 deliveries have been made by our volunteer team.

When our staff and students started the transition to work from home over five weeks ago, our immediate priority was to provide individuals with the tools they needed to work and learn remotely. Over 320 laptops were distributed to students who told us they didn’t have access to a device at home, and in just a few days we became a virtual college delivering over 1,250 virtual lessons in the first week, along with our essential wraparound support services. Our data shows that 93% of our students were engaged with their programme before the break. 

The purpose of Borders College is about much more than the learning opportunities it provides. It is a safe place where all our staff, students and visitors can feel supported and can be part of something bigger. This is challenging and different at the moment.

However, we continue to offer advice and support to all of our learners through our dedicated team of advisors:

Borders College is still open for business, and we continue the important job of providing high-quality education to our students. Our staff are motivated, and engaging virtually with students to ensure that every student has the best opportunity for success.

And for those applicants who have not yet commenced their study at Borders College, the application and interview process carries on. Our staff continue to process hundreds of applications and carry out interviews via telephone or Skype, preparing the next generation of Borders College students.

Our message to all of our communities is that we are here and ready to speak with you about your education or business training needs. We are keen to work with all of our stakeholders to enable us to be prepared for each phase as the current situation progresses. At some point, we will start to return to the ‘new normal’ and our staff are working hard to ensure that we can continue to deliver high-quality education and training in this new world, and at the same time support the wider community whenever we can.

As we look to the future, we are already thinking about how we build on the organisational learning that is taking place operating in a virtual world and how we adapt in response to our stakeholder’s future needs. Despite the challenge of now, I am confident that Borders College will emerge stronger as a result, and will continue to deliver what our region requires in response to the economic and societal fallout of this pandemic.  

Angela Cox, Principal, Borders College

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