A COLLEGE with thousands of students has become the latest in a string of schools to shut its doors to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Greater Brighton Metropolitan College announced it would be "suspending face-to-face teaching" from 4pm today.

It will then switch to an online learning system from March 23.

The college is responsible for the learning of about 3,500 16-18-year-olds, 1,000 undergraduates, 7,500 adult learners and 800 apprentices, who are spread across campuses in Brighton, Shoreham, Worthing.

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The institution's chief executive, Nick Juba, said: "Greater Brighton Met takes the safety and wellbeing of its staff and students extremely seriously.

"We have been closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) nationally and locally, and carefully following all instructions given to us by the local authority, the Department for Education and Public Health England.

"At this time, the advice remains clear that schools and colleges should not close, however, the government has noted the importance of social distancing.

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"Following the above advice, the college remains open and has no plans to close unless it is advised to do so by the relevant authorities.

"However, with an increasing number of staff and students needing to self-isolate, our ability to deliver is becoming more challenging and is putting an unsustainable strain on our staff; in particular, for those staff who are trying to teach face-to-face as well as providing online resources for those students self-isolating but are able to study from home.

"In the best interests of both our staff and our students, we have taken the decision to suspend all face-to-face teaching from 4pm today, until further notice.

"A small number of our adult leisure and hobby courses will continue to run for the remainder of this week.

"Our intention is that teaching will resume online, making use of all available digital resources, from Monday. In some cases, this will be sooner. Students that are able to will be expected to work from home.

"For the remainder of this week, teaching staff will be preparing the resources and tools they need to ensure they can deliver a high-quality learning experience for students, albeit remote.

"Teaching staff will be in contact with their students to outline their plans and expectations.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your ongoing support of the college in these challenging and unprecedented times.

"We will continue to share any updates as and when we can."

The college has become the latest in a large number of schools across the city to have chosen to close their doors.

Blatchington Mill School in Hove has shut today due to staff shortages.

Meanwhile Dorothy Stringer in Brighton is set to close to Year 8 and Year 9 pupils for more than a week.

Cardinal Newman School in Hove has also closed today, but will reopen for all except Year 8 and 9 pupils tomorrow.

And Bhasvic college in Hove has suspended all lessons until the Easter holidays.

Today, Peacehaven Community School announced an "emergency closure" on March 18. It said it had been forced to partly close the school due to a limited number of staff. Year 10 pupils have been told not to attend until March 20.