Self-isolating and onsite students should receive ‘same amount’ of teaching, says DfE

FE providers should attempt to deliver the same amount of teaching and work to self-isolating students that they would receive onsite, new government guidance has said.

The Department for Education has today outlined new guidelines on remote learning in further education during the coronavirus pandemic.

It states that for students who have been advised to self-isolate, but are “well enough to learn”, officials “expect FE providers to continue their education remotely as far as is reasonably possible”.

Students learning remotely “should benefit from the same amount of teaching and guided work that they would normally receive onsite”.

But there are exceptions to these rules, for instance, where a student is on a course which involves practical teaching and training, and requires specialist equipment and supervision.

The exception also applies to work experience and placements.

Providers should have systems in place to check at least weekly if a student is “persistently” missing lessons for their study programme, or if they are not engaging with remote education.

Students should be provided with clarity on arrangements for remote education, for example on timetabling, and on the expectations for them to participate in remote learning.

And it should be confirmed with them the different ways they will receive assessment and feedback while learning remotely, as well as how often that will be provided.

In comparison, primary schools have been told to deliver at least three hours of remote learning to self-isolating pupils, while secondary schools should deliver at least four.

The department said today FE providers must continue to deliver fully-planned hours for students, unless further restrictions come in force for their area, and should also put in place support for vulnerable and disadvantaged students which could include deciding whether they need support for remote delivery.

Providers will have to plan for managing safeguarding concerns as well, and must maintain regular communication with vulnerable young people to ensure that they are safe and are accessing remote provision.

The government has come under pressure to help providers with online learning, with the Association of Colleges reporting last month that as many as 100,000 students may be missing out on learning because they do not have a suitable device to learn on, or access to the internet from home.

The association’s chief executive David Hughes called for “immediate support for colleges to allow students to get the devices and access they need,” without which, he said: “We risk stunting the life chances of young people for years to come.”

Today’s guidance included how providers can use the 16-19 bursary fund to provide digital devices and connectivity support for students, based on individual circumstances.

There has also been a change to the adult education budget rules for 2020-21, the guidance reads, so providers can use learner support funds to buy IT devices for students aged 19 and over, and to help providers’ meet students’ connectivity costs.

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  1. But how does this work?:

    Funding for further education programmes is based on their size and measured in planned hours or learning aims. It is not determined by term dates as it is for schools, and this allows providers flexibility on how planned hours are delivered. ***If the amount of face to face planned hours for students are reduced before the end of term, we expect that additional face to face planned hours will be provided before the end of the study programme.***