Understanding Coronavirus

+ What is Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how do I avoid catching or spreading it?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

The most up-to-date information is available here, however good practice continues to be:


  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.


  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
+ What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature) 
  • A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Find out more on the NHS website.

+ What are the risks of serious illness?

For most people the infection presents a low to moderate risk as the infection is mild for most people, however, it can present a greater risk to:

  • Older people
  • People with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma or heart problems)
  • Those from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds which makes them more vulnerable to more severe illness.
+ What should I do if I think I have been infected and I feel unwell?

Anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can get a free test to check if they have the virus.

You MUST NOT attend site if you are displaying any of the symptoms and should self-isolate in line with current government guidance.

Find out more and book a test here.

+ When should I call 111?

Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:

  • You feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • Your condition gets worse
  • Your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

Find our more on the NHS website


General information for staff, students, parents and stakeholders

+ What is the college currently doing in relation to the coronavirus?

The College is acting on advice from government sources including Public Health England, the NHS, and the Department for Education to protect the health and well-being of all staff, students, visitors and stakeholders to New College Durham.

Exams continued in January for those students who chose to take them, and we are working on a staggered approach to returning some students onto campus from Monday 22nd February, to undertake some practical elements of the course in readiness for assessments.

We will provide information on any return to college as part of lockdown easing as soon as government guidance has been made available.

+ When will the College re-open?

The College will reopen in line with Government guidance. We will continue to follow government guidelines and will continually review the situation to ensure all of our students and staff remain safe.

We are expecting further government guidance to be available week commencing 22nd February outlining how colleges and universities are able to begin bringing students back to campus, and we will keep you informed of any changes. This page will give you all the latest information you need as it becomes available.

+ Where can I get more information from about coronavirus?

You can get all government information relating to the virus from the NHS website.

Information from the Department for Education is available. 

+ Who can I talk to about the impact of the virus on my education?

If you are a student who is worried about the impact of the situation on your ability to complete your course of study you should talk to your course tutor.

The Department for Education coronavirus helpline is available to answer questions regarding education. The helpline is open Monday–Friday between 8am-6pm.

The helpline number is: 0800 046 8687

+ What measures will be in place to keep staff and students safe when the College re-opens?

The health, safety and wellbeing of College staff, students and visitors remains our primary focus.

In this effort we have followed Government and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Guidance, carrying out risk assessments, limiting the number of people on site and putting in place a number of steps to ensure hygiene standards and cleanliness are maintained.

A list of the full measures that have been developed are detailed within the College’s COVID-19 Risk Assessment. This is supplemented by individual departmental risk assessments picking up on particular nuances specific to that area and where applicable ensuring that they are reflective of the latest industry guidance.

+ Who should I contact if I am worried about returning to site?

Staff are asked to raise any issues or concerns that they may have about returning as part of the pre-return process.

Outside of this process they are encouraged to raise any concerns with their line manager and/or Human Resources as soon as possible to enable us to respond accordingly.

Students are asked to raise any concerns with their tutor.

+ Can I just turn up to speak to someone in the College?

We would recommend for you to communicate with us via telephone or email in the first instance. All visitors to the College must book an appointment with the relevant staff member prior to visiting. This is to ensure we can accommodate your visit safely.

If you require any assistance on contacting a staff member please contact our switchboard on 0191 375 4000 and we will be happy to help.


Information for employers and employers with apprentices

+ How is my Apprentice being supported during this period?

We are supporting Apprenticeship learning using a range of approaches.

These include one-to-one catchup sessions and lessons with tutors and apprenticeship skills co-ordinators using the College’s virtual learning environment (Schoology), telephone calls, Zoom and work being set and returned by email.

+ My Apprentice is furloughed. How does that affect their Apprenticeship?

Furloughed Apprentices are treated exactly the same as those still in the workplace and are being supported remotely.

We are working hard to ensure that they return to your workplace on track and ready to go.

+ How can I find out how my Apprentice’s programme is progressing?

In normal times your Apprentice’s progress is monitored by their apprenticeship skills co-ordinator/tutor and this is still ongoing.

If you would like further information on your Apprentice’s progress please email apprenticeships@newdur.ac.uk 

+ When will the College re-open for Day Release Apprentices?

Some Apprentices approaching the end of their programmes may be invited into College as early as June, as explained above.

We are planning on the basis that all Apprentices that require access to College facilities will be able to access college facilities from September 2020.

We will monitor this in line with government guidance and keep you updated via our website.

+ I want to recruit another Apprentice. Can you help?

Our full Apprentice recruitment service is operating as normal. We can offer advice on choosing the right programme for your new Apprentice, advertise your vacancy, sift candidates and even arrange virtual interviews.

Please contact your allocated Apprenticeship Liaison Officer directly or email apprenticeships@newdur.ac.uk 



For more answers to FAQs for Apprenticeship employers, please download our guide

GCSE and A-Level grades

+ How will my GCSE/A-Level grades be awarded?

You may have seen the recent announcement regarding the cancellation of GCSE and A-Level examinations and that teacher assessed grades will be used to award final qualification outcomes. We are waiting to see the detailed guidance of how this will work.

It is essential that your son/daughter continues to engage in the remote learning. Teachers will be continuing to gather evidence that will be used in these processes and may be used in the awarding of these grades.

In some subjects, awarding organisations may choose to carry out their assessments as planned although delay these. Students will need to have continued engagement in their learning to ensure they can return to College and are fully prepared for any future assessment.

+ How will my qualification (non-GCSE/A-Level) be awarded?

The Secretary of State confirmed the government’s policy in his direction to Ofqual, which was published on 23 February 2021. Vocational Technical Qualifications (VTQs) that are not GCSE or A-level will be assigned by awarding organisation to 3 broad groups of VTQs:

  • The first group includes those VTQs most similar to GCSE, AS and A levels that are used for progression to further or higher education. It is government policy that it is no longer viable that exams for these VTQs go ahead. Instead, results should be awarded using similar arrangements to GCSEs and AS or A levels. These include VTQs such as many BTECs, Cambridge Nationals and Technicals, and many Technical Awards and Technical Certificates, as well as other general qualifications that are not GCSEs, AS and A levels, such as the International Baccalaureate, Pre- U, Core Maths, Extended Project Qualification and Advanced Extension Awards.
  • The second group is VTQs used to enter directly into employment. Exams or assessments should continue where they are critical to demonstrate occupational or professional competence and can be delivered in line with PHE measures. Where the assessment cannot take place safely, it will need to be delayed. These may be written or practical exams and assessments.
  • The third group includes smaller qualifications taken for mixed purposes that are unlike GCSEs and A levels in their qualification and assessment structure, such as Functional Skills qualifications and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Exams and assessments for these should continue where they can be delivered in line with PHE measures or remotely, but with alternative arrangements available for those who cannot access the assessments.

We are currently awaiting further detail from the awarding organisations to confirm the specific details for each qualification. As assessment can still contribute to qualifications and indeed some practical assessment may take place, where it is safe to do so, it is essential that all students remain engaged in their education and learning.


LFD testing

+ Why is it important for me to have an LFD test?

One in three people who have COVID-19 don’t have any of the symptoms (which means they are asymptomatic) and could be spreading the virus without evening knowing.

We all need to do our bit to stop the spread of the virus and the tests can help make sure you are al low risk of being infectious and therefore will be unlikely to pass on the virus to anyone.

+ Do I have to do the LFD Tests?

No. Testing is optional however we would encourage you to have the tests to help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

+ Can I come back to College if I haven’t had the tests?

We do recommend that you that volunteer for the tests, however if you do not give consent, you’ll still be able to attend college when face to face teaching resumes, UNLESS you are displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.

  • A high temperature - this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • A new, continuous cough- this meaning coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste- this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

If you have any of these symptoms, book a test to check if you have COVID-19 and stay at home until you get a result. Do not attend college and do not book an LFD test at college.

+ Do I need to give my consent/get my parent’s consent to have a test?

The government guidance on consent is:

Pupils and students over 16 who are able to provide informed consent - can complete the form themselves, having discussed participation with their parent/ guardian if under 18.

For any pupil or student who does not have the capacity to provide informed consent - this form must be completed by the parent or legal guardian. We can send the form to parents/ guardians via email.

Everyone giving consent should also take a look at our privacy notice on how we’ll use your data.

+ How many times do I need to get tested?

Initially as part of the mass testing programme and your return to College, you will be able to have three LFD tests before moving to home testing.

+ What does the test involve?

They are known as lateral-flow tests. They involve you taking a swab from the back of your throat and nose. It only takes a few minutes - download the attachment to find out more about how the test works

+ What will the test show?

The test will determine if you are currently infectious with the COVID-19 virus even if you do not have any symptoms.

+ How will I get my results?

Once you’ve registered and taken the test, you’ll receive an automatic email informing you of the result. This can take around 30 minutes.

+ What should I do if either of my tests is positive?

If either of your tests are positive you’ll need to go home straight away. A positive LFD test result, recorded in the test centre, is now being treated in the same way as a positive test for COVID-19. You will need to stay at home and follow the guidance for self-isolation. A member of the College admin team will be in touch with you to identify any close contacts.

Positive results from home testing will need you to book a confirmatory PCR test.

If you are well enough you should continue with your studies remotely and your teacher will be in touch about this.

+ Can I get a test if I have already tested positive for COVID-19?

Yes, the tests are available for all staff and students even if you have previously tested positive for COVID-19.



General COVID-19 questions

+ How does the air-conditioning operate within the College?

We have double filtered fresh air supply to all areas and rooms via specific air handling plant.

Air is supplied into all locations and equally extracted then exhausted to atmosphere (not circulated - it’s always fresh air supply), this happens at all times there are people in occupancy within the building. This system means that fresh air is circulated in a controlled way to make sure the air is always wholesome (as per standard regs).

Any Air Conditioning systems we have are additional to this but again at no point is the air circulated repeatedly, it is always being replaced by the fresh air from the air handling units. The air conditioning in a given room acts as the heating or cooling element within the room it is not responsible for the air supply.

Points to note:

  • We always change the filtration within the AHU on a 6 monthly basis.
  • We clean and sanitise the air con units as required based on the use of the area but at no longer intervals than 6 months.
  • This year we are paying for an external company to sanitise and certificate our ac infrastructure to give additional weight to the regime, given the circumstances, as well as helping us to catch up with the few missed months, we have had our staff offsite.
  • Before September all AHU will have new filters and all ac units will have been professionally sanitised.
+ Can I.T. provide all staff with the Direct Print option for all photocopiers/printers, this will eliminate the use of so many antibacterial wipes (environmental considerations).

Some staff, in particular staff in offices already have a direct print facility.

As the machines are centralised, in some areas you have to go to a different room to collect your print. This results in build up of prints, prints going missing and confidentiality concerns.

There is another option to introduce log in card scanning. This allows the scanning of cards on the machine to log them in.

Introducing direct printing or card scanning doesn’t completely eliminate the touching of the machine. Users still have to touch the machines anyway to select scanning options, double sided, change resolution etc, so as per my previous suggestion relating to keyboards, I would recommend we place cleaning materials at every machine and introduce cleaning and hand washing rules.

+ Will face coverings be provided?

Face coverings will be provided and are mandatory in public areas, classrooms and offices where 2 metres is not possible.

+ Are lidded bins provided in all areas?

As the college will be disabling all the hand dryers in the toilets we will be purchasing additional foot operated lidded pedestal bins to deal with the hand towels and other items.

+ Will the additional risks for BAME staff and students be assessed?

Yes. This is referenced within the COVID-19 Risk Assessment and for staff that fall within this category we will undertake individual risk assessments with them.

We will raise this matter with our curriculum colleagues to ensure that similar processes are put in place and considerations made for BAME students.

+ What procedure is in place for use and cleaning of lifts?

Lifts are now reduced to one person at a time (unless you require assistance) and signage is now displayed.

Lifts as well as other multi touch areas in college will be subject to an enhanced cleaning regime. There will also be sanitising stations in the vicinity.

+ Does the first aid procedure include CPR?

Yes and the college 1st aiders will follow the latest guidance on CPR and other 1st aid guidance.

+ Will all rooms be equipped with cleaning spray, cloths and gloves?

Rooms will be subject to enhanced cleaning and sanitising units will be available at strategic places around the college.

If it is deemed necessary following risk assessment that certain rooms require these additional measures then they will be provided.

Other measures including not sharing equipment will also be brought in.

+ What measures are in place for those staff who are identified as 'vulnerable' should they return to work?

To be confirmed.