Our Further Education and Training Colleges/Centres remain open in line with the Government’s Plan for Living with COVID-19 and follow all safety protocols and guidelines to contain the spread of the virus. The safety and wellbeing of learners and staff is paramount at all times with the Return to Work Protocol and Public Health Guidance adhered to. Learners will be supported to scrupulously observe guidance to absent themselves from the FET Institution if they have any symptoms that suggest that they may have COVID-19 and if they have been identified as contacts of someone with COVID-19.
Each college/centre has a Response Team, headed up by the Centre Manager, which is managing risk, suspected cases, control measures and communication. Each location has been adapted to adhere to the latest Public Health Guidance. This includes the use of face coverings while indoors, protective screens, sanitisation stations and designated traffic flow throughout our buildings. This page provides information for our learners on COVID-19 and will be updated as guidance changes (so, check back regularly or bookmark the page).

COVID-19 INDUCTION INFORMATION

The below information is extracted from sections of the COVID-19 Information Video for FET learners prepared in August 2020. The video is required to be shown as part of Learner Induction in support of the ‘Return to Learning’.

 

Infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 can cause illness, ranging from mild to severe, and, in some cases, can be fatal. It can take anything from 2 days up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus to appear. They can be similar to the symptoms of cold and flu.

Common symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • a fever (high temperature – 38 degrees Celsius or above)
  • a cough – this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
  • sudden loss of taste and smell
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties.

IF YOU FEEL UNWELL

The prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a crucial step in protecting the learner involved, fellow learners, and others at the college/centre.

To ensure the safety of all you must:

  • make yourself aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and monitor your own wellbeing
  • self-isolate at home and contact your GP promptly for further advice if you display any signs or symptoms
  • report to your co-ordinator immediately if any symptoms develop while on campus.

Hand Hygiene

Hand Hygiene is the single most important procedure for preventing the transfer of microorganisms and therefore preventing the spread of Nosocomial infections.

Learners must:

  • Ensure you are familiar with and follow hand hygiene guidance and advice
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, or with hand sanitiser, regularly and in particular:
    • after coughing and sneezing,
    • before and after eating,
    • before and after preparing food,
    • if in contact with someone who is displaying any COVID-19 symptoms,
    • before and after being on public transport (if using it),
    • before and after being in a crowd,
    • when arriving and leaving the campus,
    • before having a cigarette or vaping,
    • when hands are dirty,
    • after toilet use.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose
  • Use the facilities provided to support hand hygiene (for example hand sanitiser/hand wipes/hand washing facilities)
  • Not share objects that touch your mouth, for example, bottles or cups
  • Use your own pens for signing-in etc.

Respiratory Etiquette

The following measures to contain respiratory secretions are recommended:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing;
  • Use the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use;
  • Perform hand hygiene (e.g. hand washing with non-antimicrobial soap and water, use hand sanitiser, or antiseptic handwash) after having contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials;
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow.

Face Coverings

  • Use of face coverings is in addition to, and not as a replacement for, other measures to reduce the risk of transmission of infection.
  • They must be donned correctly and should remain in place covering the nose and mouth throughout the period of use.
  • They should not be moved up and down over the nose and mouth.
  • You do not have to wear a face covering if you have an illness which causes trouble breathing or you are unable to remove it without help.
  • If you find it difficult to wear a cloth face covering, a full face visor or face shield can be worn instead. The visor should wrap around the sides of your face (ear to ear) and extend to below the chin. Reusable visors should be cleaned after each use and then stored in a clean place until needed.

 

Disposable Gloves

If the nature of your course learning requires gloves to be worn:

  • It is essential that hands are cleaned with an alcohol hand rub or washed thoroughly before putting on and after removing gloves.
  • If hands are soiled when putting on gloves, this is a perfect environment for the virus to thrive.
  • The virus gets on the gloves the same way it gets on your hands. Wearing disposable gloves can give you a false sense of security.
  • Your hands can get contaminated if gloves are not taken off correctly.

Physical Distancing

Physical Distancing is recommended to reduce the spread of infection. The current recommended distance to be maintained between people to minimise risk of transmission is 2 metres.

Learners must:

  • Keep to the 2 metre (6 feet) rule at all times
  • If using stairs – ensure that social distancing is maintained
  • If using lifts – only one occupant at any one time, buttons to be wiped down after use
  • Where possible, internal doors will be kept open on campus to reduce the frequency of touching
  • Where possible, learners should remain in their allocated areas
  • Where possible, dedicated bathrooms will be provided to learner groups depending on the layout of the building. If not – one in, one out protocol.
  • Staggered breaks will be in operation to ensure social distancing.

The HSE recommends the downloading of the COVID Tracker App to help us to protect each other and slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ireland.

If you use the app you will:

  • be alerted if you have been in close contact with another app user who has tested positive for coronavirus
  • be able to track any symptoms you have and get advice on what to do to protect yourself and others
  • be able to anonymously warn other app users that you were in close contact with, if you test positive for coronavirus

  • For more information on COVID-19, visit the HSE’s website: hse.ie/coronavirus/. It’s updated regularly with the latest public health advice.
  • Check with your teachers/tutors if you have more questions.
  • Avoid social media for information and instead ask your teachers/tutors, or refer to official websites like the HSE’s above or the World Health Organisation on who.int

NATIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR LIVING WITH COVID-19

GUIDELINES FOR FURTHER & HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

FET Colleges/Centres Open – with Protective Measures

FET Colleges/Centres Open – with Protective Measures

  • Where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, FET Institutions will not need to close unless told to do so by the HSE.
  • Where staff are required to isolate, structures and supports will be in place for teachers and learners to facilitate learning continuity, if possible.
  • Learners that are required to isolate will be facilitated to continue their learning remotely where possible, and they should notify the FET Institution that they have been required to isolate.
  • If a learner has to go home with symptoms, the FET Institution will not close unless advised to do so by the HSE. Staff and learners remain and continue with their scheduled course.

FET Colleges/Centres Open – with Escalated Protective Measures from 07/10/2020 to Midnight 21/10/2020

  • Where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19, FET Institutions will not need to close unless told to do so by the HSE.
  • Where staff are required to isolate, structures and supports will be in place for teachers and learners to facilitate learning continuity, if possible.
  • Learners that are required to isolate will be facilitated to continue their learning remotely where possible, and they should notify the FET Institution that they have been required to isolate.
  • If a learner has to go home with symptoms, the FET Institution will not close unless advised to do so by the HSE. Staff and learners remain and continue with their scheduled course.
  • All appropriate protective measures have been escalated
  • Rotas have been introduced/enhanced for canteen areas
  • Congregation is limited – learners should not congregate in common areas

Tuition Moved Online

  • On-site attendance only when essential

FET Colleges/Centres Open – for Essential On-site Learning Activities from 22/10/2020 with Tuition Primarily Online

Under Risk Level 5 of the Government’s Plan for Living with COVID-19, Further and Higher Education has been designated as essential insofar as on-site presence is required and such education activities cannot be held remotely. In practice, this means that tuition will be primarily online but some essential practical learning activities will also continue on-site. For example, apprenticeship training, outdoor activities, laboratory work, horticulture.

What Learning Will be On-site?

  • Apprenticeship training
  • Post-Leaving Certificate, Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme, and Vocational and Employee Skills Development practical elements
  • Youthreach (including Community Training Centres)
  • Core Skills – Adult Literacy
  • Practical courses e.g. Horticulture etc.
  • Community Education and Specialist Training Providers tuition (except for online delivery to learners who are categorised as at ‘Very High Risk’ from COVID-19
  • Contracted Training (but moved online where possible)

How will Online Learning Work?

  • The delivery of online learning will fully comply with the ETB’s Safe Practice Guidelines for Online and Blended Learning in Further Education and Training. Your learning practitioner will use supported platforms for this, such as MS Teams and Moodle.
  • All online assessment must comply with the ETB FET Division’s Online Assessment Guidelines. Your learning practitioner will explain how online assessment will work.
  • Your learning practitioner has discretion in the delivery of your classes. For example, they may wish to conduct face-to-face classes and/or tutorials for class groups where they deem it necessary. In addition, this enables your FET College/Centre to bring class groups back to carry-out on-site assessments, where required.
  • Our staff will continue to meet remotely during Level 5 restrictions on issues related to emergency remote delivery and any contingency tuition/assessment arrangements that may be required. Further advice will be added in this section as these discussions progress.

Are you Living in Student Accommodation?

  • In line with Level 5 restrictions introduced on 22/10/2020, you are asked to exercise within 5 kilometres of your accommodation and not to visit other households.

What Protective Measures are in Place?

  • All appropriate protective measures in place since re-opening our FET Colleges/Centres will be maintained to support the above on-site activities and to avoid congregation.

What About Travelling to my FET College/Centre?

  • For transport to and from your FET College/Centre to participate in essential on-site activity, walking and cycling are encouraged but public transport can be used where necessary.
  • Learners can be provided with a letter from their FET College/Centre stating that you are engaged in Further Education and Training.

LEARNER FAQs

No, the HSE will contact the location based on the contact tracing processes and advise on the steps that will be required.

  1. Where there is a confirmed case; if the learners were arranged in “pods” and social distancing practice was maintained, many learners may not be categorised “close contacts” (15 mins in less than 2 metres proximity) and may not be required to isolate by the HSE.
  2. There will be many potential suspected cases as we approach cold and flu season. A measured response where learners individually absent themselves and follow GP recommendations will be in operation; FET Institution will not need to close unless told to do so.

Close contacts of confirmed cases will receive a call/message from the contract tracing team of the HSE. It is likely that they will be required to isolate and get tested (as per instruction from GP/HSE).

  1. Where staff are required to isolate, structures and supports will be in place for teachers and learners to facilitate learning continuity, if possible.
  2. Learners that are required to isolate will be facilitated to continue their learning remotely where possible, and they should notify the FET Institution that they have been required to isolate. If they absent themselves for long periods without valid reasons, they will be removed from the course as per current FET Institution processes.

Learners should not come into the FET Institution if they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19. They should:

  • contact their GP immediately and follow their instructions.
  • inform the FET Institution if they are required to be tested or isolated.

If the learner develops symptoms while in the FET Institution:

  • Each location will have an isolation procedure for learners that develop symptoms.
  • The learner should remove themselves as soon as possible; they should contact their GP without delay and follow their instructions.

If other learners at the location are close contacts of an infected person, the HSE contact tracing process will inform them of what they should do regarding isolation or testing.

Payments to learners will not be impacted if they are required to isolate under instruction from their GP or HSE.

The FET Institution will not close unless advised to do so by the HSE. Staff and learners remain and continue with their scheduled course. If an individual learner has a particular concern in this circumstance, they should contact their GP and follow their advice.

It is important not to assume a person is COVID-19 positive. The vast majority of tests carried out at the moment are returning negative results. The response is the same as the answer to Q2 above – if others at the location are close contacts of an infected person, the HSE contact tracing process will inform them of what they should do regarding isolation or testing.

People in the building will not be informed of any learner or staff member details as this type of data is sensitive and protected under GDPR. The HSE’s contact tracing teams will contact close contacts of positive cases and inform them of what appropriate steps to take. If you have any concerns on this you should follow the government advice here: https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/protect-yourself-and-others.html

Learners and staff are required to wear a face covering when arriving and leaving the building and when moving around the building. Where social distancing of 2 metres cannot be maintained, in line with current government guidelines, a face covering must also be worn. Each FET Institution has a stock of disposable face masks that can be provided to those learners who may have forgotten to bring their face covering. Disposable face masks will also be available in the designated isolation area. Specific lab/practical activities (like hairdressing or cookery) where it is not possible to maintain 2 metres distance should use supplied PPE appropriate to the risk assessment.

All FET learners must maintain a 2 metre social distance in all FET Institutions. Where this is not possible (in labs, practicals, cookery etc.), PPE will be required (which may include face masks or face shields) appropriate to the risk assessment. Common areas such as entrances, exits, corridors and assembly points where 2 metre distancing is not possible will require the use of a face covering. Some exceptions are permitted, and specific HSE guidelines are followed in this regard.

The guidelines suggest that, where possible, rooms should be naturally ventilated by opening windows, doors or maximising external airflow in mechanical systems etc. Where these measures are not possible (for example, on cold or wet days, or when windows cannot be opened), the heating and cooling systems will be operated as usual. There is no evidence or guidance that mechanical ventilation systems contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

If you are absent for more than 2 weeks, then a new form needs to be submitted. This can be submitted on the day of return.

The ETB’s FET QA Support Service has developed a contingency plan around this. Specific questions should be referred to your course co-ordinator.

Yes, FET institutions will be operating a laptop library for learners on a loan agreement basis. Specific questions should be referred to your course co-ordinator.

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