Govt advice to students in UK: stay put for now
The Gibraltar Government has advised Gibraltarian university students not to return home before Christmas, echoing the UK Government’s guidance just days before England is due to go into lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19.
England will enter a second lockdown on Thursday that will close restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops until at least December 2, although unlike the first lockdown in late March and April, schools and universities will stay open for all pupils and students.
The UK Government’s guidance to students is clear.
“If you live at university, you must not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time,” it states.
“You should only return home at the end of term for Christmas. We will publish further guidance on the end of term.”
The Gibraltar Government, through its Department of Education and Gibraltar House in London, echoed that advice and said it had put in place contact numbers and emails to offer support.
But it added too that students should contact their universities and local councils in the first instance, and must make their own arrangements to ensure they are able to meet deadlines and course requirements.
“As always, we will be here to offer advice and support whenever this is needed,” said Dr John Cortes, the Minister for Education.
“Our students will of course need to keep abreast of all developments in their regions and institutions, but will be able to reach out [to us] in cases of particular concern.”
“Gibraltar House in London will serve as a point of contact and I am grateful to Dominique Searle for making the staff there available to assist.”
“These may be stressful times for some but we will be able to cope and deal with this with our usual Gibraltarian resilience.”
On Monday, however, the Gibraltar Government faced calls from the GSD to put in place a dedicated framework to support Gibraltarian students during what the party described as “grim days.”
“This is not just about travel advice or becoming aware of the restrictions around you,” said Edwin Reyes, the Shadow Minister for Education.
“The need to support our students goes much deeper than that as some may be feeling the effects of isolation or anxiety during lockdown.”
“Gibraltar has always prided itself upon the successes of our students and therefore, more so in these grim days, we should ensure that our students are offered advice and support in what are ever changing circumstances.”
For now, the overarching advice to students is to stay put and continue with their studies, even as some had already made their way back to the Rock.
In an email to Gibraltarian students on Monday, the Gibraltar Government’s Department of Education echoed the UK Government and urged them to keep abreast of developments via their universities and local councils.
This is particularly important because the devolved nations have different restrictions to those in place in England, making local information vital in order to respond accordingly in a fast-changing situation.
Students were also advised to ensure they adhered to the public health rules that apply wherever they are studying.
“The Department of Education does not advise students to return to Gibraltar unless their university has advised students to return home,” the email to students said.
Govt issues advice to students
Students returning to the Rock now or later this year were advised on Monday to keep up to date with travel information when booking flights around key dates when their presence may be required at university, for example to sit exams.
They were also told to ensure that they informed their university of their absence and kept abreast of any deadlines in their respective courses.
“It is your responsibility as a student to ensure that you are able to sit examinations and hand in assessments set by universities,” the email from the Department of Education said.
Although there may be scope with some universities for students to sit exams in Gibraltar – for example at Bleak House, which operates as an external exam centre recognised by some universities – this is only likely in exceptional circumstances.
“In the event that you are not able to travel back to the UK for an assessment, the responsibility for making these arrangements will lie with you as an individual,” the email added.
“You should contact your university before you are due to hand in or sit any assessment to make any arrangements necessary.”
Students were also reminded of requirements in place locally for those returning to the Rock, who will have to undergo a Covid-19 test on arrival and ensure they self-isolate until told this is no longer required.
Any students returning to Gibraltar must call 200 41818 four days before travel to provide details of their flights and book a test.
The email to students yesterday also offered some advice on what they should do if they are diagnosed with Covid-19 while in the UK. In essence, they were told to follow NHS guidelines.
However, they were also reminded of the importance of ensuring they informed their universities of any mitigating circumstances prior to sitting exams or handing in assignments.
If diagnosed with Covid-19 in Gibraltar, students must follow the GHA’s guidance.
Gibraltar House in London is providing additional support and can be contacted by students in the UK seeking further guidance.
Students are advised not to visit Gibraltar House in person as the office is closed in accordance with the restrictions operating in the UK.
The Gibraltar House team in London is now working remotely in compliance with the UK Covid-19 rules.
The main telephone line for student enquiries is operating between 10:00 and 16:00 UK time and is 0203 286 6752. If that is engaged, students can also call 0208 133 2381.
Students will be asked to provide their name, telephone contact and email in order for the team to get back to them.
In addition, students can contact the Department of Education on firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Department of Education urges all students to be careful and asks every individual to keep on doing their bit to help minimise the spread of the virus,” the Gibraltar Government said in a statement.
“Students with queries should contact the Department of Education on email@example.com if they continue to have unresolved issues after having contacted their university or local council in UK.”
“As always, we strongly suggest that students’ first port of call for any specific queries linked to their course or to Covid-19 restrictions pertaining to the region they are living in when abroad should be the staff at their university or their local council.”
“Individuals in the relevant institution and/or council will have access to accurate and very up-to-date information relevant to the individual’s situation.”
The Department of Education also reminded students that its preference was always to speak directly to students themselves, rather than to parents, guardians or other third parties.
“While the Department of Education will of course try its best to respond to all queries and concerns, GDPR considerations permit staff to speak to students in much greater detail than they would with any third parties,” the government statement said.
“Students will also be better placed to answer any specific queries that Department of Education staff might ask as they endeavour to help students resolve any issues.”