Omicron: What does Plan B mean for FE?

Face to face teaching must continue, and January exams will go ahead.

Face to face teaching must continue, and January exams will go ahead.

face masks

Students should prepare to sit January exams and assessments as planned, the Department for Education has told principals and chief executives. 

In an “urgent” update this morning, the DfE has also confirmed that Ofsted will suspend all inspections planned for next week, except for those relating to safeguarding concerns.

This was followed a couple of hours later by an updated operational guidance document published on DfE’s website.

The new measures follow the prime minister’s announcement last night that the government will implement its Plan B Covid-19 response.

Here’s the latest for colleges and further education providers:

Face to face teaching

“Teaching and learning should not be moved online,” the Department has said.

While office workers and those that can work from home will be advised to do so from Monday, the Department for Education “expects” further and higher education providers to continue with face to face teaching. 

Provider leaders have though been asked to identify “specific staff undertaking certain roles” that can work from home without disrupting face to face education. 

Guidance requiring face masks in communal areas has not changed and there continues to be no requirement for face masks in classrooms. 

January exams 

Exams for vocational and technical qualifications will go ahead as planned in January, DfE reiterates today.  

“There are exams for vocational and technical qualifications timetabled for January. Students who are due to sit these exams will be prepared and it is right that they should be given every opportunity to demonstrate what they have learnt” the email said.

FE providers are warned against using the NHS Covid Pass as a ‘condition for entry’ for education related activities but are required to follow the rules for events that meet relevent attendance thresholds.

Returning in January

Unlike in schools, colleges are not required to set up on-site testing for students in January. Colleges have been asked to “review their outbreak plans” and refamiliarise themselves with the Contingency Framework Guidance.

Settings such as adult education providers that are remaining open over the Christmas period should ensure that staff and students continue to test at home twice a week. 

For January, FE staff and students continue to be required to take a lateral flow test the evening before or the morning of their return. 

Omicron isolation

It is currently the case that anyone identified as being a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant must self-isolate and get a PCR test. 

DfE’s update today states that there are plans to introduce “daily contact testing as soon as possible” as an alternative for contacts that are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 years and six months. 

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