FE providers may be asked to switch to a rota system for attendance if they are in an area with a local lockdown.
The Department for Education has published new last-minute operational guidance for sixth form colleges, FE colleges, independent training providers, adult community learning providers and special post-16 institutions ahead of the autumn term.
The government has also published details of its Covid-19 contain framework, which sets out how education providers will need to respond to different tiers of local lockdown.
Under a tier 1 lockdown, FE providers will remain open to all learners but with a requirement that face coverings be worn in corridors and other communal areas where social distancing cannot take place.
Under a tier 2 lockdown, providers will continue to allow full-time attendance for vulnerable students and the children of key workers, but all other learners will be subject to a rota. Further education providers have been told they should adopt “similar principles” to those proposed for schools, with “discretion to decide on a model that limits numbers on site but works for each individual setting”.
Tier 3 and 4 lockdowns will mean that FE colleges will open only to vulnerable students and key worker children, with all others learning at home.
The DfE has said expects FE providers to resume delivery “so that students of all ages can benefit from their education and training in full”.
This means they must “fully deliver planned hours for students of all ages from your normal term start date in autumn 2020, including those with SEND”.
They must also “ensure that on-site delivery resumes, recognising that this may be supplemented by high quality remote delivery where that is effective existing practice”, and will be expected to assess gaps in students’ knowledge and skills early and focus on addressing them.
Providers will also be expected to put in place “additional support” for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, “including identifying whether they need support to access any remote delivery”, and to identify and put in place plans to manage “any safeguarding concerns”.
According to the DfE, some providers delivered aspects of provision remotely prior to national lockdown “and this has been successfully expanded over recent months”.
“This may continue in the new academic year,” the department said, adding that an increase in the use of remote delivery is reasonable provided that it “complements the overall offer and does not undermine the quality of education and engagement with students”, and that on-site delivery counts for the “majority of planned learning hours for all 16 to 19 students”.
Providers “should develop a strong contingency plan for remote education provision by the end of September”, the guidance adds.
The DfE has also told providers to revisit and update risk assessments, ensure buildings have good ventilation and maximise the use of their sites and any other space “if feasible”.
However, the government does not “consider it necessary” for FE providers “to make significant adaptations to their site to enable them to welcome all students back”.
The guidance also sets out specific measures for within rooms and workshops, which states that “ideally, everyone should maintain a two metre distance from each other wherever possible, or two metre with additional mitigations”.
Groups should be kept apart, with large gatherings such as meetings with more than one group to be avoided. Specific guidance on the teaching of music, performing arts and physical activity is also included.