Boris Johnson has given colleges the green light to begin their wider reopening to students from 15 June after announcing the government’s “five tests” for easing lockdown were all being met.

The prime minister said today that the country can now make “limited and cautious” changes, including that primary schools can begin welcoming back pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6 from Monday.

He then added: “A fortnight later on 15 June secondary schools will start to provide some face-to-face contact time for students in years 10 and 12.”

The Department for Education later confirmed to FE Week that this includes first year college learners, who are equivalent to year 12s in schools, on all two-year vocational study programmes, GCSEs and A-levels, as well as apprentices.

Colleges had been preparing to begin their wider reopening from 1 June but Johnson announced a two-week delay to this last Sunday.

The DfE said at the time that a “more cautious approach is being taken for FE, as for secondary students relative to primary”, which “reflects that these groups are more likely to travel longer distances to college and to use public transport – and once in colleges they will mix more with other groups”.

Around a quarter of students eligible to start returning to college are allowed in “at any point”, the DfE added.

Today, 28 May, was the key date the government had set to decide whether or not to ease lockdown measures, including the wider reopening of schools and colleges, based on progress against their “five tests”.

The five tests, which Johnson said today are all being met, are:

  1.  Protect the NHS’s ability to cope. We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK
  2. See a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from COVID-19 so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak
  3. Reliable data from SAGE showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board
  4. Be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand
  5. Be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelms the NHS

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