Government guidance

Here you can find the latest Government guidance for colleges. This page will be updated as further information is published.

Learners with SEND - reopening guidance

In addition to the Guidance for Further Education and Skills Guidance the Government has produced guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings which, while written primarily for special schools, does have some messages relevant for those working with specialist groups in colleges.

Students with SEND whether or not they have an EHC plan who are following mainstream learning programmes should be included in their regular learning cohort although they might require an individual risk assessment and some additional preparation and support.

SEND students with more complex needs who are taught as a discrete group should as far as possible work within their own bubble although they can work with wider groups for specialist teaching. Wherever possible social distancing should be maintained although it is recognised this might not always be possible all the time with students with the most complex needs.

Curriculum should include some teaching in how to continue working remotely to prepare for possible further periods of lockdown.

PPE is only likely to be necessary in a very small number of cases and should be sourced either from the college or via the Local Authority.

In a few cases it is recognised that students might need an extension to their EHC plan in order to follow an individualised support programme for a term or half term to ensure transition to their next placement. This has to be agreed through a review with the Local Authority. Students currently in their final year of a Supported Internship who require some additional time to move into employment can also have a short extension funded by ESFA.

Wherever possible specialist transport should reflect the bubbles which are adopted within the college. Decisions about specialist SEND transport will need to be made in partnership with Local Authorities. The DfE will shortly provide new guidance to Local Authorities on specialist transport.

Vulnerable young people
Staff should be particularly vigilant to new and additional safeguarding concerns and continue to work with Social Workers or other relevant safeguarding and welfare partners.

Mental health and wellbeing
College staff should be alert to the needs of students or staff who might need additional mental health or wellbeing support and provide this either in house or through referral to relevant agencies.

Managing school premises during the coronavirus outbreak

Guidance for managing school premises has been issued by DfE and includes information that colleges might want to consider when thinking about what the reopening of their buildings will look like.


Job Retention (Furlough) scheme extension

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak made a statement in the House of Commons in relation to the Job Retention Scheme (or “furloughing” as it is commonly known). The scheme has been taken up by one million businesses, who have furloughed 7.5 million people across the UK.

The scheme has been extended by four months to the end of October, meaning it will run for eight months in total under current plans. The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July, when flexibilities will be introduced.

As of July the scheme will have the following features:

  • the ability for employers to bring furloughed staff back on a part time basis

  • the level of support to the individual is set to remain at 80% of income, capped at £2,500

  • employers sharing the cost of furloughed employees (expected to be for any part time hours they undertake)

Full details on the changes to come in to place will be announced by the end of May. The Chancellor is also in discussions with industry bodies about the training requirements for individuals who have lost their jobs to support them back in to the workplace.

(Updated 12 May)

Coronavirus testing for essential workers

Testing has now been expanded to include essential workers with symptoms and people who live with essential workers and have symptoms. A full list of essential workers is available here. Full details on how to access testing in all nations and who is eligible can be found here:

Home Office updated Tier 4 and Short Term student guidance

The Home Office has published a document summarising the recent temporary concessions in response to Covid-19, including in relation to educational oversight and attendance monitoring during this period. The guidance reiterates that no-one will have a negative outcome through the immigration system due to a circumstance that was beyond their control and provides an important update on Basic Compliance Assessments and SELTs.

DfE approach to school and college accountability, performance tables and data 

The Department for Education has confirmed that they will not use exams and assessment data from summer 2020 as accountability measures. DfE will not be publishing, or sharing, institution-level college accountability measures, such as Level 3 Value Added based on the summer 2020 data. DfE have also confirmed that they will not be publishing Qualification Achievement Rate in the National Achievement Rate tables, minimum standards data or shadow measures based on 2019/20 academic year data.

This applies to all education and training providers and includes apprenticeships and traineeships. DfE say that colleges should not use the 2020 exams data as part of their teacher performance management process and that Ofsted should not use 2020 data to assess college performance.

The thinking behind this move - which AoC has been pressing for - is that the unprecedented challenges associated with determining centre assessed grades should not be influenced by accountability pressures. These decisions help ensure that colleges and their staff can act in the collective student interests throughout the summer without having to consider the impact of any of their actions on performance measures.

For further information on this, please reach out to David Corke or Eddie Playfair in our policy team.
(Updated 09 April)

Updated guidance for furloughed apprentices

The Department for Education has updated its guidance on apprentices. Notable additions include:

  • Continuing training and end point assessment for furloughed apprentices
  • Pausing new funding audits
  • Updated Q&As (3, 8, 11, 15-18, 20, 22-24, 37-38)

The full guidance is available here.

Updated 08 April

16-18 and non-devolved adult education budget funding                                               

There will be no year-end reconciliation for the non-devolved adult education budget. However ESFA (a) will contact colleges and providers who forecast significant under-delivery in February 2020 (i.e. pre-crisis), and (b) reserves the right to apply clawback if a grant-funded provider has made no efforts to continue online delivery either directly or via sub-contractors.

ESFA will take account of the fact that 2019-20 will be an exceptional year when it comes to 2021-2 funding allocations. The note explains possible approaches in four main areas.

We have a number of follow-on questions on some of the details (for example how audit arrangements will change). We have also been told that the forthcoming 2020-1 draft funding rules will clarify policy on subcontracting. The guidance is here.

Updated 04 April

Attendance recording for educational settings

Updated attendance recording frequently asked questions with further guidance.

Updated 03 April


AoC responds to OfQual announcement on summer GCSEs and A Levels

The covid-19 pandemic has driven OfQual and DfE to implement an extraordinary turnaround in the assessment system for general qualifications in England. The traditional high dependence on written exams will be transformed this summer to a system driven by teacher assessment and moderated by statistical modelling. Read our full response here.

Updated 03 April


Matrix Standard update on behalf of the Department of Education

The Growth Company, who manage the matrix Standard on behalf of the Department for Education, have introduced a number of key measures to support colleges.  Under new policies agreed by the Department, the assessment process itself will be carried out remotely using video conferencing facilities, such as Skype or by telephone and contact with students and your stakeholders can be delayed until the Continuous Improvement Check in 12 months, if required.  Some colleges are reporting that now is a good time to be assessed before the busy Autumn term. Remote assessments have already taken place with Hopwood Hall College and Truro College, and further assessments are planned under the new arrangements. If you college is due an assessment within the next 12 weeks an assessor will be in touch to agree the most effective way forward and to support you through the new arrangements.

Under the new arrangements assessors are able to grant an extension of up to  3 months, if you require longer please contact the Head of Service to outline why additional time may be needed such as key staff being unwell, being overwhelmed dealing with vulnerable students, or limited IT capacity for homeworkers etc.

We are also pleased to advise you that a review of the matrix Standard is due to take place later this year and as a key partner we will be working closely with the Growth Company.  We hope you agree that as we come out of this crisis the delivery of high-quality information, advice and guidance, which the matrix Standard has been designed to quality assure, will be even more vital. 

Updated 02 Apr


National free school meal vouchers

DfE launched its national free school meal voucher scheme today. The scheme is not currently open to colleges but officials say there may be an option for colleges to opt-in - though possibly on the basis that colleges would use their Free College Meal allocations to buy vouchers.

The scheme for schools is an alternative for institutions who are unable to arrange meals via their existing catering staff or suppliers. So far as we know, most colleges have set up cash transfer arrangements. We alerted DfE to this several weeks ago and spoke to officials yesterday to ask for amendments to the free college meal rules to confirm that this is satisfactory. The officials said they would follow this up but advised colleges to keep appropriate records of payments.

Updated 31 Mar


Home Office temporarily changes right-to-work checks

The Home Office has announced a temporary change to right to work checks (for non-EU nationals) during the coronavirus outbreak, removing the requirement for employers to see original documents. The announcement is here on the government website.

Updated 31 Mar


DfE response to safeguarding advice

Over the weekend the Department for Education published a number of guidance documents with reference to student safeguarding and wellbeing. The response given to questions about whether vulnerable students, particularly those with a social worker, had to still go into an educational setting during the closure period has raised concerns among colleges. Many asked whether they had to reopen to support these students to attend day-to-day. We worked with DfE to seek urgent clarification. Today, they have communicated revised guidance and will publish the full clarification in due course. In the meantime, please see below the amendment to the official guidance:

We expect colleges (including those that have closed) to know where their vulnerable learners are and to have a named member of staff to liaise with social workers.  We do not expect colleges that have closed to reopen and given the very small numbers of learners attending at each institution we cannot require colleges to remain open over Easter.

We will continue to work closely with officials to ensure that communications and guidance are clear for colleges. If you have any further queries or concerns about vulnerable students or anything else please email

Updated 31 Mar


Updated timeframe for college collaboration fund

Government will be adjusting the timescales for the governance pilots and the college collaboration fund (CCF) to help colleges focus on their staff and students’ welfare. DfE is exploring flexibilities within CCF to support colleges in developing good practice on maintaining delivery.

Further updates will be provided here as decisions are made (no announcement on exact dates as of yet).

Updated 30 Mar


OfS slimmed down regulatory requirements and FAQs

Colleges will be aware of the OfS announcement for slimmed down regulatory requirements during the pandemic. OfS has offered to support and is inviting providers to ask questions relating to regulation via and has a page of FAQs.

We are in regular contact with OfS on behalf of colleges. If you would like to discuss any matters or ask questions, please contact Arti Saraswat.

Updated 30 Mar


CITB to provide advance payments to 2nd and 3rd year apprentices

CITB are supporting construction employers by providing advanced payment of apprenticeship attendance grants for second and third year apprentices to help ensure future skills are retained in the construction industry.  

The payments will be made from 6 April for apprentices already subject to CITB grant support for the remainder of the year. The payments are expected to be able to support 7,500 apprentices, and will advance up to £2,500 in attendance grant at a time when retaining apprentices is critical. To read the press release on this please click here.

Updated 30 Mar


Up to date apprenticeship questions and answers from IfATE

IfATE is keeping an up to date Q&A page on issues relating to apprentices and apprenticeships during the COVID-19 crisis. You can read the latest decisions and advice here.

Updated 30 Mar


Updated guidance on vulnerable children and school closures

Guidance on school and college closures has been updated on 27 March on the following questions:

  • How are vulnerable children defined?
  • Is it compulsory for parents of vulnerable children to accept their place offer?
  • Will critical workers or parents of vulnerable children be penalised if they do not send their child to school?
  • What should schools do if vulnerable children do not attend school?
  • What public health advice should schools follow?

Updated 30 Mar

Government agrees measures with telecoms companies to support vulnerable consumers

The UK’s major telecommunications providers have agreed a set of important commitments to support and protect vulnerable consumers, and those who may become vulnerable. They have committed to working with customers who find it difficult to pay their bill as well as looking at measures to help vulnerable people get or stay connected.

Updated 30 Mar


Safeguarding, well-being, vulnerable students and closures

Over the weekend DfE published a number of guidance documents with reference to student safeguarding and wellbeing. We are aware that there are some inconsistencies and we are seeking urgent clarification. If you have any queries on anything in the guidance documents, contact

Please note: these updates seek to clarify and update terminology used in the guidance and do not include substantive policy changes or additional Q&A.

Public Health England (PHE) has also published new advice to support mental health and updated the Every Mind Matters platform to help maintain good mental wellbeing.

Updated 30 Mar

Guidance for international students

The Home Office has announced that visa extensions will be possible for non-visa nationals in the UK currently unable to return home because of travel restrictions or self-isolation. In addition, there will be flexibility for visa sponsors to allow non-EU nationals already studying with them to undertake their study from home. Please click here and here for the detail and check the following factsheets:

Coronavirus: travel guidance for educational settings

Follow this government advice if you are a member of staff or student in an educational setting and you are:
  • overseas
  • planning to travel within the UK
  • planning to travel overseas

Any UK staff and students currently on exchanges are advised to return home.

Updated 26 Mar

Changes to the process of withdrawal of funding from qualifications with low and no enrolments

The ESFA has confirmed some changes to this process.

For qualifications on the “low enrolment” list, the process is being suspended. Qualifications on the published low enrolments list will retain funding approval for 2021 to 2022. ESFA will re-launch the notification process for these in the autumn. This will be done as part of the second cycle of funding approval decisions for qualifications with low and no publicly funded enrolments. These qualifications will therefore be in scope to have funding approval removed from August 2022.

For qualifications on the “no enrolment” list the deadline for awarding organisations to inform ESFA that they will be submitting a notification to retain a qualification remains 27 March and the deadline to submit accompanying evidence has been extended to 30 April. There will be an additional window for further submission of evidence during September 2020. Following that, ESFA will confirm the qualifications with no enrolments which will have funding approval removed from August 2021. 

Updated 25 Mar


Government guidance on social distancing in an educational setting released

Guidance for education and childcare settings on how to implement social distancing can be found here.

Updated 25 Mar


Statement from Ofqual

We recognise learners on vocational and technical courses urgently need reassurance about how their qualifications will be assessed and awarded in the coming weeks and months. We are working as quickly as possible to develop an approach which enables learners to get the qualifications they deserve and that they need to progress.

Read the full statement here.

Updated 25 Mar


Tutorial video provided for new attendance recording and submission

video tutorial has been released by DfE to assist providers in the new process for recording and reporting attendance.

Updated 24 Mar


Vulnerable and SEND students

As the number of students with EHC plans actually coming into colleges is very small, many are working with the student’s Local Authority to arrange the most suitable venue and support for all students in the same locality. When EHCP students or other vulnerable students are working at home, colleges are providing the learning and emotional support they need, this may range from telephone contact every day to less frequent checking in.

Vicky Ford, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families has sent an open letter to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), their parents, families and others who support them. The letter signposts key Covid-19 guidance published over the past week and is attached below.

Updated 24 Mar


UCAS decision deadline extended to May

UCAS has given prospective higher education students an extra two weeks to make a decision about their future place of study, also giving colleges more time to adjust their processes in what are highly unusual times. All students will receive an email from UCAS this week with the new May deadline.

Updated 24 Mar


Apprenticeships guidance from the government

The Department for Education shared a further two pieces of guidance yesterday. The first was advice on maintaining further education provision, and the second was guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations. It has sparked a lot of discussion throughout the day, with providers understandably concerned about the impact on funding and lack of assurance being provided. We are processing the new measures announced and the implications they will have on the delivery of training provision.  

We recognise that this has not provided much comfort for colleges, particularly in financial terms, and are setting out the additional flexibilities we believe would help. The approach taken across education so far has been to rightly protect the pupil/student/learner and we are keen to extend that principal to apprentices as well. We have today published our AoC asks for apprenticeship support, which has also been sent to Minister Gillian Keegan and the Shadow Minister Emma Hardy.

We are in the process of writing to the apprenticeships and skills minister about this, and also detailing our concerns not just on apprenticeships but also the wider issues regarding emergency funding, solvency and cashflow. This will be sent tomorrow. We will keep you informed on the discussions we continue to have with officials and feedback through this daily alert and our resource hub.

Following a meeting with Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, we have also provided a briefing note for the informal (digital) meeting of the Education Select Committee tomorrow, attended by Gillian Keegan on the topic of apprenticeships.

Updated 24 Mar


Maintaining further education provision guidance from government

Released on 23 March, the government has updated guidance on maintaining further education provision.

You can find the updated guidance here.

Updated 24 Mar


Letter from Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to take the time to write to you and thank you for all of your hard work and continued commitment during what I know is a very difficult time.

We are facing an unprecedented challenge and I recognise that as teachers and leaders working to provide education and support to learners in your institutions, you are on the frontline of our national effort.

UK COVID-19 response

I appreciate that the decision announced by the Secretary of State on Wednesday 18 March, that FE providers should stop classroom delivery from 23 March, other than for vulnerable young people and dependents of critical workers, will have a huge impact on you as college leaders, as well as your staff members and learners.

I have already heard some hugely impressive stories on how colleges and other providers across the country are reacting – including using online resources to continue to deliver education for your learners, offering support to schools in your areas and establishing crucial communications channels with learners and parents. These illustrate how you are pulling together with ingenuity at this time and typify the spirit that runs through our brilliant further education sector. I’d like to thank you for all the work you have put in so far and for all that is surely to come in the coming weeks.


I understand that, alongside your priority to deliver learning and care for your students, the situation we are in does carry financial implications for many institutions. I am aware of some of the issues you are facing, including those raised by the Association of Colleges in a letter to the Secretary of State on 17 March, and we are working hard to mitigate this impact as much as we can. The Chancellor has also announced a series of wider measures to support employers and employees, recognising the significant impacts caused by COVID-19.

I can confirm that the ESFA will continue to pay grant funded providers their scheduled monthly payments for the remainder of the year. Your allocations for 2020/21 will have been confirmed by the end of March, and payments will be made as scheduled. I hope this can provide you with the funding certainty you require as you seek to address the impact of responding to COVID-19.

Because of the activity-based funding model for apprenticeships specifically and independent training providers generally, we are urgently looking at the impact of the current disruption and how we can help to mitigate that. For other funding streams, we will be making decisions on where existing rules and models may need to be modified in relation to any planned reconciliation and future year allocations.

For colleges in significant financial difficulties, the existing support arrangements remain in place including emergency funding. Please do speak to your ESFA territorial team about this.

We are also working on more detailed operational guidance, which will be circulated as soon as possible.

Alternatives arrangements for exams

You will also be aware that we have taken the difficult decision to cancel all exams due to take place in schools and colleges in England this summer. This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and we know that this will be disappointing for students who have been working hard towards these exams. So that we can ensure students can progress to the next stage of their lives, including going onto university, further study or an apprenticeship this autumn, we have been working closely with the exam boards and qualifications regulator Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements.

There are a very wide range of different vocational and technical qualifications as well as other academic qualifications for which students were expecting to sit exams this summer. These are offered by a large number of awarding organisations and have differing assessment approaches – in many cases students will already have completed modules or non-exam assessment which could provide evidence to award a grade. We are encouraging these organisations to show the maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged.

Ofqual is working urgently with the exam boards to set out proposals for how this process will work and will be talking to teachers’ representatives before finalising an approach, to ensure that the approach taken is as fair as possible. For more details please read our news story. More information will be provided as soon as possible. 


In terms of other avenues of support at the moment, Richard Atkins the FE Commissioner (FEC) and his team of highly experienced Deputy FECs and FE Advisers have offered their services to college leaders that would like to talk through plans, concerns and issues. Our pool of National Leaders of Governance (NLGs) also stand ready to offer any support they can. If you would like to arrange a phone conversation between yourself and a member of the FEC team or an NLG, please do email

Communication with the sector.

I recognise that the current situation is throwing up queries and concerns that many of you are working through and my officials are already speaking regularly with provider bodies including The Association of Colleges, and with unions, to make sure we are alive to the issues that you are all facing and the questions that you have. I am also in contact with representatives of the sector on the impact of COVID-19 and will continue to engage over the coming weeks. 

Accurate information is clearly vital at a time like this, and the latest government guidance is available on GOV.UK, including advice for all education settings and critical workers classifications.

To help maintain the flow of information and ensure we are alive to the issues affecting you all, I would encourage you to keep in touch and raise any queries via your ESFA territorial team.

We are certainly in an extraordinary situation and I am extremely grateful for the huge amount of work being done across the sector to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our staff, students and institutions.

Yours sincerely,

Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills

Updated 23 Mar

Guidance on vulnerable children and young people

This guidance covers children:

  • supported by the child social care system
  • with education health and care (EHC) plans
  • in alternative provision (AP) settings

Updated 23 Mar


Attendance recording for educational settings

From Monday 23 March, educational settings will need to temporarily change their attendance recording practices. To minimise the burden on educational settings and ensure that only the most important information is submitted, settings must:

  1. Stop taking their normal attendance registers

  2. Complete this spreadsheet to record attendance for all children at the educational setting.

  3. Use the information in the spreadsheet to complete this short form notifying the Department for Education about your status regarding COVID-19. The form should be submitted by midday each weekday.

Updated 23 Mar


Guidance on isolation for residential educational settings

This guidance is to support the management of children and young people living in:
  • children’s homes
  • residential special schools and colleges
  • other further education (FE) providers with residential accommodation
  • mainstream boarding schools
  • university halls of residence

You will find advice on managing isolation for individuals or groups, in the event that a child, young person or staff member either shows symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), or is confirmed as having the disease.

Updated 23 Mar


Government guidance for educational settings about COVID-19

This guidance will assist schools and other educational settings in providing advice for pupils, students, staff and parents or carers regarding:

  • the novel coronavirus, COVID-19
  • how to help prevent spread of all respiratory infections including COVID-19
  • what to do if someone confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 has been in a school or other educational setting

Updated 23 Mar


Guidance for exams and assessment

This afternoon the Government published an update on details for summer assessment 2020. It highlights that DfE is working closely with Ofqual and awarding organisations to ensure students receive grades for this summer’s assessment in a timely manner, anticipated to be before the end of July. There will be opportunities for students to take exams in the autumn or in summer 2021 should they wish to do so.  

AoC will be working closely with Ofqual and awarding organisations in the next few days and weeks. There will be further details available early next week. Ofqual recognises the need for urgency, but this must be balanced with ensuring further communication is as comprehensive as possible. If you have any queries email

Updated 20 Mar


Guidance for key workers and vulnerable students released

If followed to the letter the guidance would be difficult to implement in some cases but the key points for colleges have to be: 

  • The lists of vulnerable students and of key workers are guides only and local decisions will have to be made because resources are limited

  • The overarching guidance is that students who can be at home should be, so that should be used to reduce numbers needing college attendance.

  • Local decisions, in collaboration with others, and individually with each student and their families/carers will be the best ones.

I would encourage you to read the documents carefully and we will say more next week but some key points:

  • The list of key/critical workers is very long which is a sign of how complicated our society is. It is likely that ministerial/departmental wrangling delayed publication. FE staff/teachers aren’t explicitly named but colleges may need to work with local schools to ensure key staff who are primary age parents and both supporting vulnerable young people are covered. 

  • Vulnerable children are defined slightly more widely than it earlier appeared.  DFE officials have suggested that colleges should take a common sense approach and work with councils to categorise students between those whose high needs can’t be met at home and those who can be home-based like other students but with customised support.

  • The guidance also says that children at home shouldn’t be looked after by people covered by more stringent social distancing (older, clinically vulnerable)

  • There is a strong expectation of local education coordination which is an interesting change from the last 30 years.

  • Universities and HE providers are advised to make their own decisions.

  • Residential accommodation should stay open until PHE advises otherwise. 

Updated 20 Mar


Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) Bill published

 Emergency Powers (Coronavirus) Bill - Education references.docx

The Coronavirus Bill 2020 had its first reading in Parliament today. This bill is not subject to the standard voting procedure of parliament, and will pass through the house on Monday. The bill runs to 432 pages and contains extensive emergency powers over the whole of UK society including the power to close education settings and also the power to keep them open. You can see the full legislation here, and an excerpt of the educational elements here.

Updated 19 Mar


DfE update

DfE are currently working out alternatives for key meetings (like SPAs) that have funding implications first as face-to-face meetings have now stopped.

DfE Permanent Secretary, Jonathan Slater, presented to the Public Accounts Committee on Monday 16 March and highlighted the following points:

  • No change to the current advice that schools, colleges and universities remain open
  • Plans are currently being worked on, considering practical consequences in the case of a closure
  • It is expected ministers will make annoucements on decisions on the back of that work shortly
  • Announcements will be made through the government's daily press conferences
  • In response to a question on exams, discussion ensued around the fact that Ofqual lead on examination and have done a lot of work with the department on contingency arrangements for less signficant times that could be used, or further action could be taken forward if need be
  • Education Secretary is talking to head teacher unions this afternoon, expect announcements on matters discussed soon
  • He was asked what is being done for children on the 'Child at risk register' and what guidance is being issued. DfE have been working closely with Local Authorities to discuss the practical realities in the case that an issuance is made by government, or as a consequence of an individual schools decison to close (for example, due to teachers in self-isolation)
  • Discussion ensued around management of free school meals and any voucher system or infrastructure in place in the event of a school closure. Response was that there are options available to government but don't want to get ahead of any government announcement.

Updated 16 Mar


Ofsted update

Routine Ofsted inspections suspended in response to coronavirus

Ofsted is to temporarily suspend routine inspections of schools, colleges, early years settings, children’s social care providers and local authorities to reduce the burden on staff who are providing vital services to the nation in response to coronavirus.

The current medical and scientific advice is for schools and other educational establishments to stay open. If this changes and the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser say closing schools, colleges, and early years settings is in the best interests of children and teachers the Department will take that step.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

I recognise that teachers are doing everything they can to support the children in their care and help make sure that key workers can continue going to work. Teachers are on the frontline of our national effort.

We are following the advice of our medical and scientific community every step of the way. The Chief Medical Officer has said the impact of closing schools on children’s education will be substantial, but the benefit to public health may not be.

Given the pressures on our school leaders and their staff, it is only right that Ofsted temporarily suspends its routine inspection timetable. This will help schools to focus on their core functions at a difficult time.

The Secretary of State will write to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman to allow her to suspend routine inspections, although urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised can still go ahead.

The Secretary of State is working with representatives of school leaders to develop a range of measures to help them stay open, and this is an important part of that plan.

Response from Ofsted:

The Secretary of State has allowed Her Majesty's Chief Inspector to temporarily suspend all routine inspections of schools, further education, early years and social care providers.

Urgent inspections where specific concerns have been raised can still go ahead. This will allow us to prioritise the immediate safety of children where necessary.

As far as we are able, we will continue to undertake our important regulatory work to help maintain social care provision for the most vulnerable children, and the registration of vital childcare services. We will operate as a proportionate and responsible regulator, in what we know are challenging times, focused on children's safeguarding and well being.

All of our Ofsted Inspectors – those serving headteachers who undertake inspections on our behalf – have returned to their schools. We are in daily contact with the Department for Education to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact across education and social care.

Amanda Spielman, HMCI, said:

"I'm grateful for the Secretary of State's permission to suspend routine inspections. It's clearly the right thing to do when teachers and social workers are under pressure as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. We all need to support them in their work.

We will monitor what's happening across education and social care and we will reserve the right to inspect where we believe the safety of children could be at risk, or we have other serious concerns. We will also continue to register and regulate social care providers, childminders and nurseries, so that these vital services can continue to support children and their families."

Updated 17 Mar


FE Commissioner update

Richard Atkins, FE Commissioner, today posted on twitter the following update (updated 18 Mar):

FE Commissioner team have paused all activity in colleges except where we can, with their consent, providing support to colleges we are already working with. We are also providing information and support to our DfE and ESFA colleagues as required.

Free School Meals

Low-income families whose children are eligible for free school meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals to make sure they continue receiving this support, even if they are no longer attending school due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Schools will be able to provide meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops, which can be sent directly to families who are either self-isolating at home or whose schools are closed on government advice. This follows the Education Secretary's announcement on Wednesday that schools will close from Monday until further notice, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

The Government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs.

The guidance for schools states they can choose to support eligible children however they believe is most appropriate and headteachers can decide which of the available options will be best for families in their area.

Effective immediately, schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families, and they will have their costs covered by the Department for Education.

A national approach to providing these supermarket and shop vouchers is being developed. Further details, including the total values being provided, will be provided shortly via the published guidance.


CDF Placements

ESFA will be sending out communications to CDF-funded and T Level providers in the very near future. In the interim, the ESFA holding line is:

We are aware of the impact that coronavirus may have on the sourcing and delivery of industry placements. We will be issuing information to all CDF-funded providers shortly via emails direct to each provider and through an update in the T Level Newsletter. Please do also have a conversation with your local ESFA lead about the impact on your preparations for T Level delivery from September.

It is advisable to keep a note of any communications with employers regarding cancellations for your records. 

Updated 17 Mar