By Principal Audrey Cumberford
On Monday 16 March, we took the decision to suspend all face-to-face classes at our College to best protect the health and safety of all of our students and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak. With a very heavy heart we closed the doors to all of our campuses on Friday 20 March and in the four days between suspending face-to-face teaching and shutting our campuses, our staff worked tirelessly to adapt to new online ways of delivering life-changing education and support to our students. Our campuses might have been closing but we were determined that our College would remain open and accessible to all. I have emphasised the importance of staying connected – doing everything we can to ensure staff stay connected to each other, to our students and to our College. What has happened since has made me immensely proud of each and every wonderful member of our College community.
Last month, when we closed our doors, none of us knew what lay ahead for our College or how we’d adjust to not only our new ways of working but our new ways of living. The past four weeks have been challenging in ways that none of us could have predicted, we’ve had to try to continue with ‘normal’ life during what are unprecedented, worrying and definitely not ‘normal’ times for everybody. The commitment I’ve witnessed from staff across our College has been nothing short of outstanding, staff who have continued to support our students whilst also having to become at-home teachers to their own children or carers for their elderly or sick relatives. I can’t overstate the sheer strength and resilience I’ve seen across our College recently.
We’ve moved from working across our bustling campuses to being an almost fully digital College in a short space of time, and although there have been a few struggles along the way and we all miss the social interaction dearly, what we have achieved will no doubt enhance our College and the way we work in the future. We will learn so much from this experience and our collective ambition should be to use that learning to make us a better College. Our staff have delivered online learning using a variety of innovative and effective methods to keep providing high-quality education and training to our students. I have no doubt that this experience has brought to the surface untapped creativity within our staff and our students.
Not only have we continued to educate our students during lockdown but our teams have been on hand to provide wellbeing and mental health support too. Our teams, along with our Students’ Association, are supporting students throughout lockdown and are helping them to cope with a range of issues including anxiety, financial worries, IT needs and loneliness. Read about ECSA’s work here. It is important that all of our students know we’re here for them and can help them through this. Read more about how we’re supporting our students here.
At Edinburgh College, we are proud to be a part of the wider community and have been working to support our partners as much as we can during this time. From donating our PPE equipment to keep the amazing NHS staff safe, to delivering food to vulnerable members of local communities, our staff have really stepped up to lend a hand to others who are in need. It is at times like these that the power and generosity of people really shines through. Read more about our work with the community here.
Whilst we’re still unsure as to when our doors will open again, we take solace in knowing that when they do, our Edinburgh College community will be stronger than ever. I am looking forward to reopening our buildings, welcoming our students and staff back to all of our campuses and reflecting on a time when, despite the huge challenges and worries we faced, we came together to support each other and our community.
Today we’re launching our #ProudtobeEC campaign across our channels and I encourage everyone (students, staff, partners etc.) to share the reasons why they’re proud to be a part of our Edinburgh College community.
I’ve never been more #ProudtobeEC and so I’d like to end this piece with a big thank you to my colleagues, our students and our partners for their commitment to our College in such difficult times.