Coronavirus Update: AoC Alert (07.04.20)

Published: 08 Apr 2020

Chancellor announces support package for charities

Tonight, whilst the PM remains in intensive care, Chancellor Rishi Sunak laid out the £750m support package to “ensure that key charities can continue to deliver the services that millions of people up and down the country rely on”. The package includes £360 million in direct grants, a similar sum from the National Lottery Community Fund and at least £20 million to match public donations to the BBC’s “Big Night In” fundraiser.

The government is encouraging charities to use the Job Retention Scheme where suitable and, interestingly, the Chancellor said this scheme will be considered a ‘success’ if take up exceeds estimates (as much as £40 billion according to some estimates).

Resources and guidance you may have missed

We have updated our resource hub to make it easier to find the resources and guidance you need, at speed. There are now sections on: HR and employment, finance and operations, leadership and governance, communications and public affairs, teaching and learning, qualifications and assessment, curriculum, apprenticeships, higher education, international students, and staff mental health.

Do keep checking back as we update daily. If there is anything you’d like to see in there, email covid19@aoc.co.uk and we’ll get it added if we can.

Awarding organisations and AoC agree joint principles to move forward

We have agreed with the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB), a joint set of principles to shape the collective response to coronavirus. At the heart of this is the shared determination to do the best by students whilst supporting organisations going through difficult times. The letter covers a recommendation to share savings where they arise and to extend payment dates, if necessary. Read the letter in full here.

DfE approach to school and college accountability, performance tables and data during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak announced

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.

Ofsted inspections should continue to be halted until at least January 2021

Today, we have called on Ofsted to extend their freeze on inspections until at least January 2021, unless there are specific safeguarding issues or a college has requested one. This would allow colleges to use the Autumn term to concentrate fully on supporting students to catch up where necessary, without the added pressure and distraction of inspection. Read more here.

Supporting the NHS with their staffing needs

We are currently in discussions with Health Education England about ways that colleges might be able to help with the NHS’s ever increasing demand for staffing support. They recognise the talent, skill and expertise colleges hold and are keen to utilise it. They will be releasing a “call to arms” soon and we will have more details in the coming days.

We have been inundated with stories of colleges supporting their local hospitals and NHS which we have been able to use as case studies and in our conversations with politicians, officials and the press. Please do keep sending them to comms@aoc.co.uk.

Local authority risk assessments for EHCP students

Some Local Authorities have started giving colleges very complex risk assessment forms to fill in for their vulnerable EHCP students which duplicates existing college risk assessments and sometimes contradicts government-endorsed home learning approaches. AoC has asked DfE officials about this and we have been told that a college’s risk assessment, combined with continuing monitoring, should suffice. DfE hope to provide us with written confirmation of this shortly.

Ebook and digital learning resources available through Jisc

Jisc has collaborated with publishers, including Pearson, to increase the number of ebooks for FE in their collection. These are freely available to Jisc members, and Jisc have also lifted the fees for their vocational learning resources until 31 July 2020. e-textbook platform Kortext has also extended its free student textbook programme (FSTP) initiative to FE colleges supporting higher education learners.

Interim management and consultancy support

This pandemic has brought about new and difficult challenges for college staff and as a membership organisation we recognise this and want to support you through. That’s why we are currently offering our interim management and consultancy services at cost until 30 April. If you have staff off sick or feel you would benefit from dedicated support, please get in touch by emailing consultancy_enquiries@aoc.co.uk or interim.enquiries@aoc.co.uk.

Reminder: this week’s AoC Q&A Webinar is on Thursday

This week's Q&A webinar session with David Hughes, Kirsti Lord and David Corke will be taking place on Thursday 9 April from 2pm due to Good Friday. If you have not yet registered, please do so via this link. We are running these sessions to keep you up-to-date with the changes in the sector during this period and provide assurance and guidance where we can. This is your chance to pose questions to our team on the challenges you’re facing. To submit questions in advance, please email Sam Ayerst.