Yesterday (23rd March 2020), the DfE published further guidance for colleges and further education providers to help explain the necessary steps they should take to maintain education provision during the coronavirus outbreak.

Who does the guidance apply to?

The guidance is specifically targeted at post-16 further education (FE) providers, FE colleges, sixth form colleges and/or FE providers.

What does the guidance say about key workers and vulnerable learners?

The guidance is structured into nine sections. It covers some of those topics already well documented by the government, particularly in relation to supporting dependents of key workers and those considered more vulnerable.

For those young people who are considered vulnerable, the guidance provides information on how colleges and providers should act. This includes the importance of maintaining regular contact, which goes without saying, as well as considerations around those who may be more at risk, safeguarding concerns and those who are currently residents on campus.

How is funding affected?

In short, the government is trying to ensure there is as little financial impact as possible.

The guidance confirms that monthly profiled payments will still be honoured by the Education Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) for this financial year and the next, and that the Student Loan Company (SLC) will continue to make fee payments. Both of these measures will no doubt provide some form of relief for many.

Further guidance will be provided in relation to other funding models/streams, however there is emergency funding available if colleges do find themselves in significant financial difficulty.

What about remote learning?

Ongoing learning forms the largest part of the guidance. The expectation is that many colleges and providers will do all they can to ensure continuity of learning from home and already have a strategy in place.

Nonetheless, the DfE provide clear guidance around what colleges should look to implement and how to achieve the best results from remote learning. They outline seven key points for providers to consider as well as signposting a number of support services including the FE Commissioner, National Leaders of Governance (NLGs) and Association of Colleges (AoC).

Will examinations and Ofsted inspections still go ahead?

In a word, no. All examinations have been cancelled for schools and colleges this summer, with alternative methods of assessment due to be finalised between the DfE and Ofqual.

Similar discussions are also taking place around the different vocational and technical qualifications that many FE providers deliver. In both cases, the development of a system/approach which is fair is a core part of the strategy.

Ofsted have suspended all their inspections along with FE Commissioner Intervention visits and non-critical ESFA intervention. Only in the case where specific concerns have been raised, which may place young people’s safety at risk, will Ofsted consider urgent inspections.

You can read the guidance in full here.

To view our video update on COVID-19: DfE ‘Maintaining Education and Skills Training Provision: Further Education Providers’ Guidance, click here.