The Department for Education has published updated guidance for colleges and other FE providers about the return of more students next month.
It comes after the prime minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed the government was pushing ahead with plans to start to provide face-to-face support for year 12 and equivalent students from June 15.
The original wider reopening date for colleges was set at June 1 but Johnson announced a two-week delay to this last Sunday.
Here’s what we learned from today’s updated guidance.
Only welcome back 25% of students at a time
To help reduce the coronavirus transmission risk, the guidance states the number of learners attending at any one time will be “limited to a quarter of those on the first year of a two-year 16 to 19 study programme”.
This is in “addition” to vulnerable young people and children of critical workers outside of this cohort who might already be in full-time attendance.
Remote learning ‘should remain the predominant mode of learning’
The DfE said they recognise that for some programmes, remote education will be working “effectively with a high degree of learner engagement”.
Colleges and other providers will have “flexibility to decide the appropriate mix of online and face to face content for each programme, within the constraint of limiting those on site at any one time, reflecting what will maximise learner engagement as well as supporting more vulnerable learners, and enabling the provider as a whole to minimise transmission risk”.
They added that remote education “should remain the predominant mode of learning during this time”.
FE providers have ‘flexibility’ over which learners can return
From the week commencing June 15, FE providers “should offer some face to face contact for 16 to 19 learners on the first year of a study programme” alongside the current provision offered to vulnerable learners (including those at high risk of becoming NEET) and the children of critical workers.
This will “primarily” impact colleges, but will also include a “small number of local authority providers, special post-16 institutions and independent training providers”.
While the DfE’s “overriding principle” is that the focus should be 16 to 19 year olds on the first year of a two-year programme, there is “flexibility” to bring back four other types of learners.
This includes classes where there are students aged over 19 on the same 16 to 19 vocational course, as well as 16 to 19 learners who were due to finish this academic year, but have not been able to because their assessments have been deferred.
Apprentices aged 16 to 19 can also be brought back for face-to-face contact.
The last group that can be brought back are learners who “may be on extended programmes, for example because they are studying part time, alongside caring responsibilities or had to retake exams or part of their programme”. If they are part way through a study programme, and have “key” exams and assessments next year, they “can be included”.
Range of protective measures should be implemented but funded from own budgets
The DfE said they “will ask settings to implement a range of protective measures” including increased cleaning, reducing ‘pinch points’ (such as at the start and end of day), and utilising outdoor space.
Any additional costs arising from wider opening, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) must be funded “from existing college budgets”.