Coronavirus Update: AoC Alert (03.07.20)

Published: 14 Jul 2020

Economic update, Wednesday 8 July

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’ve continued to build momentum for our REBUILD plan and are pleased to have both NUS and British Chambers of Commerce actively promoting our asks. They will be sending our plan and tools for their networks to write to their local MP in the run up to next week’s fiscal statement.

Department for Education September reopening guidance

The Department for Education published guidance yesterday to support colleges to fully reopen in the autumn. DfE has also made some marginal updates to its July guidance but has maintained the general prohibition on a return for adult learners for now. We circulated a detailed note in yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing but it is particularly worth noting:

  • the requirement to update risk assessments and controls.
  • the points on specific curriculum areas (eg hairdressing, music).
  • the advice that dedicated public transport can operate on different rules.
  • the explanation of how health protection agencies will get involved if there are virus outbreak.

Summer 2020 exam results

With the cancellation of exams and the reliance on centre assessed grades (CAGs), results days will feel very different this year and the modified system will require different messaging. AoC will be advising colleges about general communications around the results days.

There is some discussion about the rights of students to ask for their centre assessed grades and rankings once results are issued. If these are not provided, they could be the subject of Subject Access Requests under GDPR. We don’t think Ofqual will be providing any further guidance on this but it would be sensible to have a common approach based on transparency, trust and good communications with students and their parents.

The options for colleges include: sharing CAGs and rankings with students at their request after results days or waiting for SARs. Please send any feedback on this to Eddie Playfair.

The 2020 autumn exam series

Following the consultation, Ofqual has decided to move ahead with the plans they announced for an autumn series for A Levels and GCSEs. They had 3,400 responses, including AoC’s which expressed some concerns about the plans. The key decisions are:

  • Awarding bodies are required to offer an autumn exam (but can cancel this where 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 (probably October for A Level and November for GCSE) but the November English and maths GCSE exam dates and entry deadlines should be as usual.

Students will sit exams at the centre where they were entered apart from GCSE English and maths which will take place in the centre they attend (as now).

Exam fees: At least one awarding organisation has announced the level of discount for this summer and we think that other awarding organisations will inform centres of any ‘summer discount’ and the autumn fee level in advance of the autumn series.

Summer 2021 exams and assessments

Ofqual has published a consultation on possible changes to academic qualifications in 2020-21 and a position paper on vocational qualifications here. This follows on from the Education Secretary’s letter to Sally Collier, Ofqual’s Chief Regulator on policy objectives related to exams and assessments in 2020/21.

Ofqual’s consultation asks for views on adapting subject content to free up teaching time and improve safety. Options include changing the length and content of exams. The consultation sets out proposals for each subject and also asks for views about delaying GCSE exams to the second half of the summer term (after 7 June 2021). AoC will be responding to the consultation which runs until Thursday 16 July 2020. Ofqual plan to announce outcomes in August.  

The position paper on technical and vocational qualifications is shorter and sets out some principles. Ofqual say they will look at ways to allow assessments to be simplified but have had views from stakeholders that content should not be reduced.

AoC will be responding and we would value subject specialist input from college curriculum experts on this. Contact Eddie Playfair (General qualifications) or Catherine Sezen (Technical and vocational qualifications).

Industry Placements and cdf 2020/21 updates

DfE has today made a number of announcements regarding industry placements and cdf 2020/21. In light of the Coronavirus epidemic, and based on feedback from colleges, AoC recommended cdf flexibility for 2020/21. We are delighted to confirm that the cdf target has been reduced to 25% over two years instead 30% over one year. In addition there is further Industry Placement Guidance including additional delivery models for placements in Construction and Engineering and Manufacturing, and a new guide for students to help them prepare for their placement. The Employer Support Fund pilot and the Employer Support Package will also continue. These announcements were made alongside the publication of two new industry placement evaluation reports. Finally the government will also procure an organisation to support 2020, 2021 and 2022 providers to deliver high-quality placements in line with the delivery guidance.

Conditional unconditional offers and the Office for Students

The Office for Students has published its decisions on its proposed bad behaviour clause following its short consultation. It’s 47 page explanation is here and explains that the condition will be Z3, will take effect for 12 months (including students starting in 2021-2) and will be specifically focused on banning conditional unconditional offers and making false or misleading statements about other providers in admission discussions. OfS have accepted the case made by many respondents that they should limit the retrospective application of the rule. AoC offered broad support to OfS proposals but also suggested that the HE regulator take action to stop universities reducing college franchises. They have not acted on this. The OfS statement also makes it clear that student number controls are a DfE responsibility so there will not be an additional breach.  Finally OfS have ignored our suggestion that any action towards college should be routed via the sector’s lead regulator - ESFA.

Second AoC Covid-19 survey

We are keen to get as many college responses to our second Covid-19 survey. This  follows the one we published in early May. The survey covers curriculum issues but also asks for predictions on 2020-1 pay rises and redundancies. We are looking for best estimates rather than exact figures. We do not think the survey should take more than 15 minutes to complete and please make returns by Tuesday 7 July. As with all surveys, individual college details and your personal details will remain anonymous.

Note that we are not asking many finance questions because we will be asking you to share your July finance returns with us via the RCU MIDES services. More details on that to follow next week.

Letter to Colleges: Protecting young people from Modern Slavery

The Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) have written an important letter for college leaders about Operation Aidant - a national law enforcement response to Modern Slavery, labour exploitation and human trafficking. The letter provides details of how colleges can engage and the support that is available to you including teaching resources developed by Boston College.

Climate Commission

The Climate Commission released its FE Roadmap for colleges yesterday. Produced in partnership with Nous Group, the Roadmap outlines clear, feasible and cost-effective actions UK colleges can take to advance sustainability across estates, governance, teaching and engagement, and respond impactfully to the climate emergency. You can read more here and there is a link to download the full map here.

Keep Under 18 Travel Free in London

We have thrown our support behind the #DontZapTheZip campaign this week. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, calling on the government to reverse the decision to suspend free travel for young Londoners. We are also encouraging Principals from colleges in London to write to their MPs warning of the detrimental impact on young people’s education and training opportunities and the risk shutting out the most disadvantaged from moving around the city could have. If you’re a London Principal please check out the resources on LondonColleges.

Beacon Awards and SOTY 2021

AoC’s Charitable Trust will be opening applications for the 2020/21 Beacon Awards programme and Student of the Year Awards on Thursday 9 July 12 noon a new updated website.

Thanks to existing and new sponsors, it’s great to be able to announce that there are three new Beacon awards this year. There is also some relaxation of the rules on how long a project and activity has been running so colleges can showcase their innovation and response during this unprecedented period. There is a new Chief Assessor and we have taken the chance to streamline the application and assessment process  for this year under their guidance. These changes, whilst maintaining the rigour and standing of the Beacon Awards will enable staff to feel able to apply and tell us about their great examples of supporting students, employers and the college community.

Student of the year awards will also be open for nomination from 9 July and we want to hear about those students who are role models and ambassadors and have made a contribution that impacts the wider college community.

Honours nominations for Covid19 - now open

Honours’ nominations are now being sought for the New Year 2021 with the onus being on honouring outstanding individuals during the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Honours Select Committee has provided extensive guidance on the completion of citation forms. There is a tight deadline of 10 July. You can find out more here.

Update on special educational needs and reopening

In addition to the 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. You can read more about what it means for colleges on the hub.