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Students Put Aside Their Fears And Urge Others To Embrace A Safe Return To Class

Tollbar MAT Sixth Form College students (l-r) George Kavanagh, Josh Young, Emma Fowler, Edie Sandiford, Casey Foyle and Isabella Glasson with Simon Ritchie (Head of Sixth Form) are filmed for a podcast by North East Lincolnshire Communications Officer, Royce Coates, to encourage students across the region to embrace a safe return to the classroom.

Tollbar MAT Sixth Form College students are putting their fears aside and embracing being back in class after 18 months of disrupted learning due to Covid 19.

As the first college in the region to return to class last week, the students took part in a podcast with North East Lincolnshire Council to give their opinions on missed education and what it means to them to be back studying for their A Levels with full-time, face-to-face learning, and no class bubbles.

On their return, all students were Covid tested and tests will be repeated again this week. Following that, all students will be expected to test themselves at home twice a week. The college is continuing with increased safety measures, including frequent hand-washing, disinfecting all equipment after use, increased ventilation and the option to wear face masks.

Year 13 student Isabella Glasson, who hopes to become a vet, said: “I am feeling really positive about being back this year because there is still testing taking place twice a week, which puts your mind at rest that everyone is safe. It is so much better face to face. Tollbar has done so much more face-to-face teaching than perhaps other places and it just makes you feel more confident. When there are so many applicants and you are on the road to becoming a vet you need as much face-to-face teaching as possible so it really is a relief to be back.”

Simon Ritchie, Head of Tollbar MAT Sixth Form College, agreed. He said: “The students are right. We have gone about as far as we could with online learning. We put everything into it. Tollbar has remained open throughout the pandemic, except during full national lockdowns. Engagement with students was really good and the dialogue was there, but there is something about being face to face with students that I think just can’t be replicated. So we need to do everything we can to remain open, particularly when people have such high expectations of themselves and we need to help them to get from here to there. 

“With early entry university applications, in particular, you have to have applications in by October 15, so it really is time to get back to education otherwise these kind of opportunities for lifelong careers are going to be eroded.” 

Year 12 student George Kavanagh, who has just joined the Sixth Form College from Havelock Academy, said: “A lot of people our age have missed out on a massive chunk of their education. We have the opportunity to be here now and be here all the time thanks to the Sixth Form taking proper safety precautions and making us test twice a week. 

“For the last year it has been groundhog day, everyday getting up doing school work form home which is not suitable for everyone; not everyone has the technology to do it, not everyone has the motivation, but we are back now and hopefully we can stay in college and study properly, and it has been a long time coming.”

Year 12 student Casey Foyle, who achieved nine Grade 9 GCSEs last month, has her sights on a teaching career and will now study three A Levels. She said: “It is really good to be back with all the restrictions in place because I was really worried about it, but all the teachers have made sure that our safety is a priority. It is also good to know that they just want to get our learning back on track.”

Year 13 student Ed Wells said: ”No-one wants to isolate. We have missed out on so much education so being back and seeing that the school is so clean and tidy and well ventilated gives us the confidence to get back in the classroom and just get on with our education. For instance, I know that a Chemistry classroom has been out of use this whole time because it does not have a window, and the fact that these precautions are being taken to keep us as safe as possible gives me confidence to get on with my studies.”

Josh Young, who achieved two grade 9s and six Grade 8s in his GCSEs last month, said: “We are studying here because we want to do something aspirational and I definitely feel that this is a safe environment and that gives me the confidence to fully focus on what I am here for.”

Year 12 student Emma Fowler added: “I am really excited to be back. I love the sense of community and being back with people who know what we are all going through. I can see just what we have been missing out on in our education.”

Edith Sandiford (Year 12) agreed. “I am really positive about being back in the classroom. Once we got our results I just wanted to get back and make a start on the next stage of our learning.”

Royce Coates, Communications Officer for North East Lincs Council, said: “It is really encouraging hearing these students speak so eloquently about their desire to get back to education. All of the schools  in the region are working so hard to ensure a safe return to class this week and I am sure that they are in agreement with Tollbar students that it is time to get back to learning.”

Year 13 students Isabella Glasson and Ed Wells chat with Head of Sixth Form Simon Ritchie about what it means to them to be back in the classroom.

Year 12 students, Josh Young, Casey Foyle and Emma Fowler, give their opinions on missed education due to the Covid pandemic. They were being filmed at Tollbar MAT Sixth Form College by North East Lincolnshire Council, who hope to encourage students to embrace being back at school this month.

 Year 12 students George Kavanagh and Edie Sandiford chat with North East Lincs Communications Officer Royce Coates about joining the Sixth Form College.

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Mr N J Whittle

Head of Sixth Form

Mr S Ritchie