Coronavirus Update - AoC Alert (02.11.20)

Published: 02 Nov 2020

Four week stay-at-home order

The government will present legislation to Parliament this week to implement a four week stay-at-home order starting at 00.01am on Thursday 5 November 2020 and running until Wednesday 2 December. The Prime Minister announced this measure in a Saturday evening press conference after details had been leaked to the media. The rules will include a limited set of reasons for leaving home including:

  • Education
  • Work, if you cannot work from home
  • Exercise and recreation, with your household support bubble or on your own with one person from another household
  • All medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm
  • Shopping for food and essentials
  • Provision of care for vulnerable people, as a worker or volunteer

A short government statement explains the new rules. The Prime Minister will make a statement to Parliament today at 3:30pm and the government will publish regulations later in the day or on Tuesday so that there can be a vote in time for implementation by Wednesday night. The government may face a backbench Conservative MP rebellion and Labour support may be conditional on the financial support package so there are likely to be amendments to current plans.

This second national lockdown is very different for colleges than the first one in March because of government policy that schools, colleges and universities should stay open. Officials say that DfE will issue a short briefing asking colleges to continue operating in the same way as we were in October and that there will be updated guidance during the week reinforcing the “at least 50%” face to face teaching for 16 to 19-year-olds but with an acceptance of extenuating circumstances if colleges are given different public health advice. Discussions are in progress on adult education while, for higher education and residential provision, the message is that students should stay in one place.

The Chancellor also announced a one month (November) extension to the Job Retention Scheme and a concurrent delay to the Job Support Scheme (now due to start in early December). The Saturday statement is here but, again, there may be changes.

In Friday’s chief executive letter, I circulated my exchange of letters with the Skills Minister about 20 issues where DfE needed to act. Some issues were unresolved and some new ones came into view. I discussed the following points with officials on Sunday:

  • The need for DfE to communicate expectations quickly with college leaders, particularly because the education unions are taking a different stance on keeping colleges open. Later on Sunday, two mayors - Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, held a press conference at which they asked for a two week school closure in late November.
  • The fact that GCSE resits start today and I still haven’t had an answer from the Schools minister to my letter which suggested they be cancelled.
  • The rising costs of Covid compliance and the fear this could undermine solvency in some colleges.
  • The fact that many colleges have enrolled more 16 to 18-year-olds and the need to confirm in-year growth arrangements.
  • The need for DFE and combined authorities to extend adult education budget tolerance arrangements in 2020-1 to reflect the changing situation.
  • The concern that further disruption to teaching and learning will make it hard to run fair exams and assessments.
  • The need to deal with the difficulty in arranging work placements on study programme and T-levels by adjusting rules and targets.

I am sure there are other issues. Please contact me or any of your AoC contacts if there are issues we need to be addressing.

If there’s significant news during the week, we’ll circulate a further alert. If not, we’ll cover key developments in Friday’s chief executive letter and the Q&A webinar at 2pm. Email Sam Ayerst to register.