Staff and students in FE providers have been advised by the Department for Education to wear face coverings in the classroom upon their return on March 8 for a “limited time”.
Colleges and FE providers are now set to reopen to all learners in two weeks’ time under the plans.
Today’s guidance explained that from March 8, officials “expect that every 16 to 19 student (or 19 to 25 with an EHCP) will attend their FE provider in person, and will undertake the majority of their planned hours on site”.
Adult learners “may also return on site”, the guidance says, adding: “As was the case prior to coronavirus (COVID-19), you should continue to judge the right balance between on-site and remote delivery for adult students in order to provide high quality education and training.”
Clinically extremely vulnerable students and staff are however advised to not attend their FE provision, until 31 March at the earliest, because the risk of exposure to the virus “may remain high”.
The DfE is now also recommending for all students and staff who do attend to wear face coverings in the classroom until at least the Easter break. Previous guidelines said face coverings should only be worn in communal areas.
Today’s updated DfE guidance for FE providers said: “We recommend that face coverings should be worn by adults and students when moving around the premises, in corridors and communal areas and in classrooms or workshops where social distancing cannot easily be maintained, except where exemptions apply.
“Face coverings do not need to be worn by students when outdoors on the premises.”
‘Continue to be sensitive to additional needs of students’
The guidance goes on to state that this does not apply in situations where wearing a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example during sports lessons and physical activity.
The DfE said teachers should “continue to be sensitive to the additional needs of their students, such as deafness, in deciding whether it is appropriate to wear a face covering”.
The guidance added: “Transparent face coverings, which may assist communication with someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate, can also be worn.
“Those who rely on visual signals for communication, or communicate with or provide support to such individuals, are currently exempt from any requirement to wear face coverings at the setting or in public places.”
Today’s updated guidance also outlines the new plans for coronavirus testing of students, which you can read more about here.