By Paul Little

IN these unprecedented times an enormous strain is being placed on public services and creating huge anxiety for many. I am acutely mindful of my responsibility to all our staff, students, and to the communities we at the City of Glasgow College serve.

As Glasgow’s largest college we are proactively monitoring and responding to this evolving situation through our Covid-19 Action Group. We set the group up before closure and remain in regular contact with our local and national politicians.

We took the early decision to close our twin site campus on March 17 and a number of tertiary institutions immediately followed our lead. In a single working day, we transitioned 1,660 staff and tens of thousands of students to purposeful home/remote teaching and working with all available technical support allocated.

Our students did us proud also by taking time out during the move to raise more than £1,100 for local charities and food banks in the city centre close to where our City campus is based.

Uniquely within the college sector, our two halls of residence remain operational, supporting the welfare of vulnerable care-experienced students, international students, and those from elsewhere in the UK who are unable to travel home during this lockdown. We are grateful that our staff and contractors continue to carry out essential duties to protect the welfare of those students, and we are naturally doing all we can to minimise the risks they might encounter.

Additionally, we continue to monitor the mental health and wellbeing of our Merchant Navy cadet officers who, as vital workers, are keeping our ports supplied with goods – including necessary medical supplies, and many products sold in our supermarkets. We recognise and admire the delicate balancing act our seafarers have to perform in observing expert health advice while remaining on board their vessels.

We also offer 24/7 online mental health and well-being support through the Big White Wall digital platform – available to all our students and staff.

City of Glasgow College is actively contributing to the national and civic resilience effort. We have been liaising with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and we have engaged with the Scottish Government to highlight that we stand ready to help where we can. We are also supporting our local business community, working closely with both the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and the Glasgow Business Resilience Council.

Indeed, our college fully supports the Ready Scotland national initiative, and we are committed to positively encouraging people to volunteer where they are able to do so safely, alongside their work. I have no doubt that there are many Team City representatives in the 21,000-plus individuals across Scotland who have signed up to volunteer through the initiative. We are indebted to them all.

Our buildings may be closed, but we are very much open and playing our part to the full as a valued civic anchor institution. We shall continue to demonstrate the agile, collaborative, and inclusive approach that supports our college and local communities, as identified in the recent Cumberford-Little Report, especially pivotal in times of crisis.

I am hugely grateful above all else, that our college community – our staff and student team - spirit continues to shine through during this incredibly difficult and fast changing time. Colleges create families and like many families we are staying connected while we are apart to ensure those we care about most stay safe and well.

Paul Little is Principal and Chief Executive, City of Glasgow College