Coronavirus Update: AoC Alert (10.07.20)

Published: 14 Jul 2020

Summer economic update

There is a lot still to digest from the Chancellor’s economic update on Wednesday. Rishi Sunak said he’d wait until the autumn for a full budget and spending review but he nevertheless allocated £30 billion on three sets of items:

  • a job retention bonus of £1,000 in spring 2021 paid for up to 9 million people (depending on how many return from furloughing).
  • four short-term eye-catching announcements estimated to cost £10 billion (a 5% VAT rate in hospitality, a stamp duty cut, a green homes grant and an “eat out to help out” scheme).
  • a big employment and training package for the 16 to 24 age group built mainly around Department for Work and Pension (DWP) programmes (including the new Kickstart scheme) but also including new apprenticeship and traineeship incentives for employers and a £101 million one year programme for 18 and 18-year-olds.

Julian Gravatt has written more on the announcement in this note here which includes some powerpoint slides.

Free college meals

There will be various funding announcements in the next few days. On Friday DfE announced that ESFA will add £73 per funded free college meal student to college allocations in August 2020 to cover the cost of meals over five weeks. This money is repayable in the autumn if not used. Details are here.

Education secretary’s further education speech

The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, made a speech on Thursday about further education. There was nothing particularly new in it but he signalled his support for the sector (must not be “forgotten education” in future) and his broad aims for the forthcoming white paper. He said there will be a renewed focus on higher technical education and on strengthening colleges but gave few details because the work is at the start. The white paper has support from Number 10, Treasury and DfE ministers and significant MPs because it is part of the government’s overall levelling up plans which were devised pre-crisis and which are more urgent than ever because of it. The speech transcript is here. Our media response is here.

FE reform ambassadors

Three backbench MPs have been given the new role of “FE reform ambassadors”: Stroud’s Siobhan Baillie, Great Grimsby’s Lia Nici and Mansfield’s Ben Bradley.

AoC Chair announcement

Julie Nerney is to step down as Chair of the AoC Board from the end of July to take on a new position leading a major national transformation programme. This will allow Julie the chance to give her new role the energy and focus it requires, whilst ensuring that the AoC board has the resource necessary to support and lead the organisation and sector through these unprecedented times.

We’d like to thank Julie for her hard work, enthusiasm and commitment to AoC and to our member colleges, and for helping to drive forward the strategic vision for the organisation since she joined the board in October 2018. We wish her all the best in her new role. AoC Board met on 24 June and Julie’s usual post-meeting note is included here.

We will begin the recruitment process for a new chair soon. More details to follow.

Indoor sport facilities and community sport to return

The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) announced more re-openings in July:

  • From Saturday 11 July outdoor pools can reopen.
  • From Saturday 25 July indoor facilities such as gyms, leisure centres and pools will also be allowed to reopen

This is all conditional on operators following government guidelines. Each venue should make their own decisions about when their facilities are ready. Guidance for providers can be found here.

Team sports will also restart from Saturday 11 July but only when there is a government-approved action plan and related guidance on playing safely. Each individual sport National Governing Bodies (NGB) will submit to the government (DCMS) an action plan and any related guidance, demonstrating its mitigations, how it plans to operate, and any adaptations required. AoC Sport are continuing to work with NGBs to ensure the safe return of competition for colleges.

Creating a post-covid19 edtech strategy ebook

AoC have published a new eBook Creating a post-Covid19 EdTech Strategy bringing together all the wisdom and lessons learnt from lockdown learning. Funded by Ufi the eBook uses a series of insightful articles, tackling the biggest issues for lecturers, students and college leaders during lockdown. The new publication makes the case for serious investment into digital infrastructure to enable an education system fit for the ‘new normal’. It will be available on Amazon and iTunes for download shortly, for now you can read it here. Our press release is here.

Helpfully, the eBook has launched the week before the final webinar in our EdTech strategy series on Wednesday 15 July. AoC’s Director of Education & Skills Policy, David Corke and Jisc’s Alistair McNaught will wrap up the series, discussing digital accessibility and key policy asks. Register here.

Beacon and SOTY Awards 2021

Yesterday we launched the Beacon Awards and Student of the Year Awards 2020/21, with three new categories to the Beacons - Climate Change, Diversity & Inclusion and Creative & Performance. We have relaxed the rules on submission due to the coronavirus pandemic as we want to hear the fantastic examples of how colleges have responded during this time. You can find out more about the application process and full prospectus on the college awards website.

Blame or Betterment - new FETL paper

A new paper from Further Education Trust for Leadership reviews the impact of the regulatory system in FE. It is the third piece in its series on shame and shaming and its impact on further education leadership. This report explores the regulatory system which providers operate in and asks whether the prevailing system, with its tendency to focus blame on institutions and individuals, is conducive to sector improvement, and, ultimately, better teaching and learning. You can read it here.

SEND area inspections

Although full SEND Area Inspections are on hold, Ofsted and CQC teams will in the autumn be carrying out research and support visits and working with stakeholders to design a new framework for future SEND Area Inspections. You can read full details here.

Ofqual consultation on assessment of GCSEs, AS and A Levels in 2021

Ofqual is consulting here about its proposals to change the assessment requirements for some GCSE, AS and A Level subjects to free up teaching time, reduce what needs to be taught in some instances and take account of any public health restrictions relating to COVID-19 that might be in place during 2020/21. This consultation includes proposals and questions on adaptations to exams and assessments that could free up teaching time, address obstacles created by any public health safeguards and on the sampling of subject content and the use of more optional questions in exams.

There is a case for reform of public exams and assessment in the medium to longer term but on the issues of changing the length of exams and changing the exam timetable in 2021, we are assuming that colleges are not keen to see major change to existing arrangements next year and would not want the August results days in 2021 to be delayed.

The consultation closes on 16 July and we are keen to have any subject specific feedback from colleges in time to inform our response. Please send any comments to Eddie Playfair.

Vocational and Technical Qualification Assessment 2021

Ofqual has published its principles for guiding technical and vocational assessment in 2021. As part of its stakeholder engagement work Ofqual will be taking soundings from the AoC Curriculum Reform Policy Group. We held our first meeting yesterday and agreed to continue the conversation over the summer into the autumn term.  Our key feedback was the importance of timely and consistent communications and clear timeframes for decision making.  If you have any feedback you would like to be considered, contact Catherine Sezen.


Building on the examples of excellent careers practice in this year’s AoC Beacon Awards, Sir John Holman, Senior Adviser to the Gatsby Foundation today writes a timely reminder of the importance of leadership in careers information advice and guidance as students across the country prepare to get their exam results. You can read it on our blog page.

National Citizen Service (NCS) FE offer

The National Citizen Service is adapting its traditional programme this year and has a focus on supporting colleges to re-engage learners. There are two distinct free offers which will be of interest to colleges looking for support with:

  • induction activities for new learners
  • personal development, employability and work experience.

The FE Support Offer is designed to complement any provision you are already putting in place for learners aged 16/17 years old. The NCS partner organisations will be able to deliver a range of activities over 2-10 days focussing on personal development topics including: Post-COVID Socialisation, Citizenship and British Values, Health and Wellbeing, Preparation for returning to education, Careers and Progression Guidance, Employability, Skills for Independent Living.

These can be delivered as part of college induction processes. Only learners aged 16/17 year old will be eligible. 

The NCS Autumn Activities Offer is available for delivery at any point in the Autumn term, or October half-term. This is a blend of the traditional NCS programme and a range of activities to support 16/17 year olds coming back together with their peers. These activities can be delivered either as a flexible 2-5 day term-time offer with an optional 30 hours of subsequent social action or as a continuous five day programme over the half-term week, with 30 hours of social action over the rest of the term. Both of these options are open to 16/17 year olds (Year 12).

Colleges interested in one of the above offers should email NCS and their team will follow up to confirm availability and work with you to adapt the activities to best suit your objectives.