DfE publishes 'checklist' for the wider reopening of colleges

The Department for Education has published a “checklist” to assist colleges with their wider reopening from 1 June.

Government guidance was updated this evening to help leaders decide “what to consider and steps to take when planning increased attendance”.

It says that given the “varied nature” of colleges it is “not possible for the government to be prescriptive and provide a blueprint that could apply to every college”.

“A tailored approach, within these guiding principles, will be required to ensure an approach that is practicable, safe and which meets, as far as is possible, the needs of the learners, staff and wider community,” the guidance adds.

The DfE warns that implementation of the checklist “may well have financial implications” so “care must be exercised to ensure these are taken into account with due regard for the impact on the college’s overall budget and financial position”.

It also states that the week commencing 1 June is the “earliest” that colleges should start to reopen for face to face contact with 16 to 19 learners on the first year of two-year programmes, alongside the provision they are offering to priority groups.

The department says that they “understand” there may need to be some flexibility in place due to the variety of learners and courses offered in FE settings, so although the main face to face contact is for 16 to 19 learners from 1 June, there “may be some courses that include learners within a class that are over 19”.

“Some 16 to 19-year-olds will have been due to finish this academic year, but not been able to because their assessments have been deferred (typically where they involve a license to practice). These learners can be included in on-site delivery if they would benefit from face to face contact,” the guidance adds.

“We will be expecting colleges and providers to treat 16 to 19-year-old apprentices consistently with other learners for their off the job training where possible and appropriate, so that they can be offered some face to face contact.”

Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes said the guidance “makes clear that 1 June is not set as a rigid date for re-opening”.

“We are advising every college to make their own decisions on their assessment of priorities, needs, the context in which they operate and individual risk assessments and we are confident that is what the government wants,” he added.

Among the recommendations, colleges have been urged to consider establishing a “coronavirus governance and leadership group which meets regularly to monitor the board approved plan and consider any required adjustments and/or circumstances that may have arisen that require an immediate policy response”.

“The group’s membership, role and relationship to the full board should be agreed by the board, along with regular reporting protocols,” the DfE said.

In addition to colleges, the guidance also applies to the “smaller proportion of 16 to 19 learners in other further education settings – including local authority delivery, special post-16 designated institutions and independent providers”. 

The checklist and guidance can be read in full here.