Latest AoC alerts and activity

Here are all of AoC's alerts and activities so far to keep you up to date with what we're saying and how we're supporting you.

The majority of AoC offices are closed and AoC staff are working from home, however we are still available to support members. Please email COVID-19 specific queries to covid19@aoc.co.uk and we will direct your query to the right team member and respond as soon as possible.
 

AoC Webinars

Next leadership webinar - Friday 3 April, 2pm

We are going to be running another online Q&A session on Friday 3 April at 2pm for college leaders. There will be updates from AoC and the opportunity for you to ask questions of us. This week we are also inviting questions in advance, please email Sam Ayerst if you have anything you would like answered during the session. We will endeavour to address as many as possible in the session otherwise they will be collated and responded to as soon as possible. You can sign up here.

You can watch previously recorded webinars on the following links:

 

Webinar - College Governance and COVID-19: Sizing the problem, addressing the risks 3:30pm, Friday 3 April

AoC are running a dedicated webinar for chairs and governors to address the risks and challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and how you can best provide support and challenge during this period. Register online here.

 

AoC Alerts

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

How to collaborate with your local NHS organisations

Colleges across the country are supporting their local NHS organisations by donating and manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE). We want to support more of you to do this. You can read some excellent examples from North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College and South Devon College here. 

Whilst clarifications for PPE are being sought and further guidance is imminent (see recent letter here), given the urgent situation we know that some NHS organisations are sourcing it locally and would be very happy to be approached on this.

Where you have existing relationships with local NHS Trusts, foundation trusts, primary care networks or integrated care systems (ICSs) we recommend using these. Alternatively the director of finance/head of procurement would be good options, and where these details are not easily available you should contact the CEO or Chair with an offer of support. If anyone requires further support in making contact, we are happy to facilitate conversations with NHS Confederation’s member networks.

Colleges can also support their local NHS organisations by donating hand sanitiser and wipes and by volunteering staff and students. Offering the use of college estates is another priority area, for testing, storage, supplies and accommodation.

Please continue to share your work collaborating with the NHS so we can continue to amplify this with DfE and the media. 

Updated 31 Mar

 

Job retention scheme and furloughing

We have had lots of queries about the job retention scheme and about whether colleges should use it. As explained in earlier briefings, we continue to press DfE for adult education and apprenticeship funding changes to provide more security for colleges and their learners but we have been told clearly by senior officials that DfE won’t be able to cover all college income streams. In the absence of any new guidance, we think it entirely proper for colleges to consider furloughing staff whose roles wholly relate to non-funded activities which have now stopped or to physical locations which are now closed. The first point, of course, is to see whether individuals can be redeployed. Normal employment law rules apply and HMRC requires employer certification that furloughed staff have ceased work.

Updated 31 Mar

 

Summer exams, qualifications and awarding organisation fees

Ofqual promised last week that they will be issuing information about GCSEs and A-levels this week. We are in discussion with officials on this and they are still on course for an announcement in the next few days. They have also promised information on other qualifications in the next week or so.

Several colleges have asked whether AoC can secure reductions to exam fees given that external assessment will no longer be happening. We have raised this with Ofqual and we plan to write to DfE/Ofqual/FAB/JCQ, and possibly the CEOs of the main awarding organisations. We plan to ask them to work with us to achieve some consistency and transparency. As we know from our efforts in the past to secure savings, it is complex. Every college works with several AOs and on different terms in many cases. We would like to see a sector-wide approach, led by Ofqual and/or DfE action - something we will continue to press for.

Updated 31 Mar

 

Shining a light on the best of colleges during coronavirus

Every day since the coronavirus emerged, colleges have been doing amazing things to help their students, staff and communities. Everyone in our sector should be really proud of the role colleges are playing through this crisis. We want to spread the word of all the work that is being done across the country and have a newly published blog providing a taste of what colleges are doing. You can read it here.

Thank you to those who have already shared your fantastic work already - we are continuing to amplify what you are doing and sharing this with officials and the media. Send us what you're doing if and when you can.

Updated 27 Mar

 

Education Secretary writes to college leaders to thank them

The education secretary has written to college leaders, independent training providers and adult education providers to thank them for their work during the outbreak of the Coronavirus outbreak.

"I want to express my deepest gratitude for the absolutely vital service that you are providing to young people, adults, and of course your local communities – for which I know colleges and further education institutions play a central role."

Updated 27 Mar

 

Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan, released a video overnight echoing these words, and expressing gratitude to the sector. You can watch the video here.

Higher Education offers in 2020

The Skills Minister, Michelle Donelan has called on HE providers to refrain for the next two weeks from changing the offers they have made to undergraduate applicants (including changing entry requirements or converting conditional offers to unconditional offers). A few universities have changed a significant proportion of their offers to undergraduate students from ‘conditional’ to ‘unconditional’ and this practice risks destabilising the admissions system, increasing financial uncertainty and volatility for all institutions at a time when universities are already facing significant pressures.

The Minister is urging universities to act responsibly to maintain the integrity of the higher education system, and avoid actions which might not be in students’ best interests.The Minister’s message aims to create a period of stability and support the financial health of the system as a whole. The Minister’s full statement is available here.

Office for Students chief executive Nicola Dandridge has said that OfS will use the powers available to them to prevent any actions being taken, during this 2 week moratorium which might not be in the interests of students until it is clear how the new system of awarding grades will work this summer.

AoC Chief Executive, David Hughes commented: “I’m pleased to see this announcement to suspend changing offers. It may appear to be the interests of the individuals involved to have more certainty, but it simply heightens the concern of the majority of applicants who still have a conditional offer. It may also have an unequal impact on universities and colleges who could lose students as a result. I am sure that we all need to work together across sectors, across what has been a highly competitive post-18 education system and in the interests of all students and the colleges and universities which are vital now and will be even more crucial when we start to get beyond this crisis.”

Updated 25 Mar

 

Adjustments to the Higher Education application process

UCAS has announced that it will give students more time to make decisions about their HE applications. The deadline for applicants to make decisions on their offers will be extended by two weeks to mid-May and they will be contacted this week. Universities and colleges will also have additional time to assess applications and adjust their processes.

In other ways, the admissions cycle will run as in previous years, with the flexibility for applicants to make choices throughout the rest of the year, and a Clearing process following the award of grades in the summer. Admissions tests and on-line interviews have mostly taken place and will continue to take place to inform offer making.

If 2020 grades are ready in July as planned, this will be earlier that usual and the UCAS system can accommodate an earlier results day, giving receiving institutions more time for to resolve clearing and place students.

UCAS will continue to provide support over the phone and across social media to help applicants and centres and their updates are available online in three main places:

AoC is keeping in close touch with UCAS, OfS and &university representative groups on all these issues and will keep members briefed on developments.

The AoC statement on the implications of the cancellation of the summer exam series is available here.

Updated 25 Mar

 

QAA guidance for providers

QAA is working on Covid-19 guidance for providers to help maintain quality and standards. AoC is part of the task group that is looking at issues affecting quality, standards and student outcomes during this challenging period. If you would like to discuss any issues, please contact Arti Saraswat. The UK-wide guidance will be available to all providers and not restricted to providers that are QAA members. The guidance will soon be published on the QAA website. 

Updated 25 Mar

 

Good news and examples of best practice

We’re really keen to hear about the best practice and innovative ideas colleges are undertaking during these difficult times. If you or any staff members have interesting stories about how learning has been adapted for students self-isolating - perhaps examples of where innovative and interesting technology is being used to teach virtually. Or perhaps an unusual and uplifting story about your college and community we’d love to hear about it. We know that this will be useful for the new Minister to see, as well as to share across the sector. Please email Philippa Alway.

These are unprecedented times for us all, and any resources or examples you would be willing to share with other colleges could make a real difference.

Updated 24 Mar

 

AoC asks for apprenticeship flexibility and support

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

 

Tes blog by David Hughes on the amazing ways colleges are working with communities during this difficult time

This is a time for leaders to lead, provide direction and use college resources to help our country and people to get through this crisis. Every day since the virus emerged, I have seen college leaders doing amazing things to help their students, staff and communities. They are truly showing why colleges are so important and what civic duty means at a time of crisis.

Read the full blog here.

Updated 23 Mar

 

Implications of the cancellation of the 2020 summer exam series

AoC is  working with the Department for Education, Ofqual and awarding bodies on all the issues relating to the cancellation of the 2020 summer exam series and the process of predicting student grades. A full paper on the current issues can be found here. The key points from the paper are the following:

  • The college sector will help to guarantee a place in post-16 education for every student affected
  • Post-16 providers should respect and value all the grades awarded in 2020 while being mindful of the additional support which will be needed for those students affected
  • Colleges will need to use diagnostic tests and additional resources to increase teaching time for all 16-19 year olds in 2020-21 in order to make up for the lost teaching time in 2019-20 and support to catch-up and develop their skills
  • We don’t think that large numbers of students should be encouraged to enter exams in any new autumn exam series as this could detract from their new programmes and create major logistical challenges. Any exam entries should take place in the centre where students are studying in the autumn.

Updated 23 Mar

 

Coronavirus communications webinar

Ben Verinder, Founder and Managing Director at Chalkstream Ltd has provided a practical webinar session, advising on best practice for your communications during the cornavirus pandemic. This is a free resource, register online here.

The webinar covers:

  • The latest resources

  • The public sector communication role

  • Advice for workplaces

  • Tackling misinformation 

  • What other organisations are doing 

  • Things to look out for/consider as the situation develops.
     

AoC writes to the Education Secretary calling for action to support colleges

Our Chief Executive, David Hughes, wrote to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson on 17 March 2020, calling for clarity and support for colleges. You can read the full letter here