Colleges and training providers can welcome back “priority” adult learners from July 13, the Department for Education has announced following pressure from membership bodies.

FE providers have been allowed to reopen to more students since June 15 following country-wide closures in March owing to Covid-19, but only 16 to 19-year-olds.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers, Association of Colleges and HOLEX joined forces on Monday and urged education secretary Gavin Williamson to allow the safe return of adults, citing concerns that they are not allowed to complete their courses but can go to the pub and shop for non-essentials.

In updated guidance this afternoon, the DfE said providers can now make arrangements for learners aged over 19 to “return to onsite delivery from July 13, where this can be safely accommodated, in addition to those 16 to 19 learners currently attending”.

Providers have been told to “prioritise” adult learners for return onsite as soon as is “practical for the following learners”, in the following order:

  • Learners who have had their assessments delayed and were due to complete level 2 or 3 programmes between March and July 2020
  • Apprentices
  • Learners participating in level 1 and below learning
  • Community education provision

The DfE said any additional attendance onsite must be “properly risk assessed” in line with health and safety legislation and summer term guidance on implementing protective measures which “includes information on managing the number of learners in attendance at any one time and how much they mix with other learners and staff”.

Providers have had to keep learner numbers onsite down to a quarter of eligible 16 to 19 year olds since June 15.

DfE’s guidance states that “you should still apply a 25 per cent limit to the number of 16 to 19 learners attending at any one time for the remainder of the academic year and you must be confident that the overall numbers on site at any time can be safely accommodated”.

“You will not be expected to provide onsite provision for vulnerable 16 to 19 learners or dependants of critical workers over the summer holidays,” they added.

“You should assess how many learners can safely attend while observing the summer term protective measures requirements.”

As confirmed by Williamson last week, colleges and training providers are expected to make a full reopening from September with all learners attending on site delivery.

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