College funding support confirmed, and 4 other key points from latest DfE Covid-19 guidance

The government confirmed it will honour all payments to grant funded providers for the remainder of the 2019/20 funding year, in new guidance published today.

The operational guidance for general FE colleges, sixth form colleges and other post-16 FE providers listed a number of measures enacted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

FE Week pulled out the following five key points:

 

1) Colleges to be financially supported

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) allocations for 2020/21 will be confirmed by the end of the month and payments to grant funded providers will continue to be made.

The Department for Education said it recognises that the coronavirus situation carries “financial implications for many institutions, and we are working to mitigate the impact as much as we can”.

The guidance confirmed existing support arrangements will remain in place for colleges in significant financial difficulties, including short term solvency support through emergency funding.

Furthermore, the Student Loans Company will continue to make scheduled fee payment to providers for Advanced Learner Loans.

 

2) ID ‘critical worker’ parents

Until further notice, colleges have been told to only stay open for vulnerable children and those of “key workers” (list here).

The DfE has recommended that colleges ask for “simple evidence” that the parent in question is a key worker, such as their “work ID badge or pay slip”.

It would be “overly burdensome on key sectors at this critical time to ask employers to write a letter on behalf of their employees”.

 

3) Train staff in distance learning

Some colleges, according to the guidance, have already indicated they aim to run a regular timetabled offer of online learning, which is “excellent practice if it can be reasonably maintained”.

Where possible, colleges have been urged to prepare staff on distance learning practice through bitesize/refresher training sessions focused on how to use college virtual learning environments.

They should also use tools already available at the college including physical and digital resources, and how to make use of cloud storage systems, ensuring staff and students have log-in details and know how to access online content.

Accessible guides on distance learning should also be given to students, and colleges should consider “lesson capture” to allow students to “dip in and out of lessons at their own pace”.

Leaders should also “consider how you will deploy your staff to ensure safeguarding and security policies are maintained”.

FE Commissioner Richard Atkins and his team have offered their services to college leaders, and National Leaders of Governance are also ready to offer any support they can. They can be contacted via email on FEC.OPERATIONS@education.gov.uk.

 

4) No exams will be taking place in colleges this summer

The guidance outlines how exam boards will be asking teachers who know their students “well” to submit a set of evidence, including performance in mock results and their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.

In regards to vocational and technical qualifications, the DfE added that it is working with Ofqual to “see what flexibility and pragmatism can be applied to ensure students are not disadvantaged”.

 

5) No Ofsted or FE Commissioner inspections either

The guidance confirms Ofsted inspections and FE Commissioner intervention visits and non-critical ESFA intervention have been suspended until further notice.