Coronavirus Update: AoC Alert (01.07.20)

Published: 14 Jul 2020

Local lockdowns

  • On Monday evening, the Health Secretary announced a lockdown in Leicester and its surrounding conurbation. This will involve the closure of non-essential retail, of schools and advice to stay at home. There are four colleges in the affected area who have already acted on the advice but there will be wider interest in this because this probably won’t be the only or last local lockdown. There is information here on the Leicester plan.

Updated DfE advice for schools and colleges

DfE is due to update its advice for schools and colleges to support the objective set by the Education Secretary this week that all pupils should be back in school by September. This will be a DfE planning assumption. A key uncertainty is whether there will be more changes to the “one metre social distancing plus” rule but, as with other recent changes, matters may not be fixed until a few weeks before implementation date - something that makes planning very difficult.

Prime Minister’s Dudley College speech

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, made a speech on Tuesday at Dudley College in which he sought comparisons with Franklin D Roosevelt but whose main purpose was to announce government plans to bring forward £5 billion in capital spending to 2020-1, including the £200 million for colleges (just FE colleges) and the £540 million for schools (including, in this case, sixth form colleges). The speech - titled a New Deal for Britain - is here.

Chancellor’s Economic Update

The Chancellor is due to present an economic update to Parliament on 8 July. On current trends, the content of this statement might change daily right up until it is presented. Given the daily announcements of company redundancies, there might be a jobs or training initiative and, possibly, something on the apprenticeship or opportunity guarantee floated by the Prime Minister. We have suggested that colleges should continue to write to their MPs to remind them of the urgent need for further investment elsewhere (including 16 to 18 and adult funding), as well as changes to the college offer so that we can learn from the mistakes of previous recessions and deliver a truly #SkillsLedRecovery.

Two webinars you won’t want to miss

Tomorrow, Robert Halfon will be joining us for a live Q&A webinar. Giving you the chance to ask questions and explore the detail behind the much talked about ‘apprenticeship guarantee’, including ways to refocus the levy to help 16 to 24-year-olds, redirecting the National Skills Fund and much more. Register online here.

While next week, AoC is hosting a regular online forum on Tuesday 7 July with Ofsted officials to provide colleges with key updates on important issues including Amanda Spielman HMCI’s announcement, expected on the 6 July, about the re-commencement of inspections. You can register for this here.

Ofqual announcement on the autumn exam series

Ofqual’s board have decided to move ahead with the plans they announced in a consultation on an autumn 2020 set of A Levels and GCSEs. They had 3,400 consultation responses, including AoC’s which expressed scepticism about the plans. The consultation response document summarises the key decisions which are:

  • Awarding bodies are required to offer an autumn exam (but can cancel this if there are no entries).
  • Assessment will be by exam only apart from in art and design. Marks in practicals and languages can be carried forward.
  • Awarding bodies must issue replacement certificates (the higher of the calculated or autumn assessed grade) if students ask for it
  • The timing of the exams is not yet fixed but the autumn English and maths GCSE date should stay as it is.

There is growing concern and discussion about the rights of students to ask for their calculated grades. AoC staff have had several discussions on this issue this week and we will ask for views in the next couple of days.

ESFA sub-contracting consultation decision

ESFA has announced decisions on its sub-contracting consultation. There has been some movement from the original plans which reflects views expressed in the consultation and a desire to limit disruption in 2020-1. Colleges will, nevertheless, be required to justify their sub-contracting approach and should anticipate further changes taking effect in 2021-2. ESFA’s consultation response is here.

Education Health and Care (EHC) plans

DfE has extended the modifications to the Children and Families Act for those with EHC plans for another month to the end of July.

IfATE update their guidance

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) have added to their guidance in response to questions they have been asked, particularly around EPA. For the latest version, please follow this link.