Coronavirus Update: AoC Evening Alert (24.03.20)

Published: 24 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Update: AoC Evening Alert (24.03.20)

To help colleges through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are providing daily updates which include the latest political outlook, advice, guidance and useful documents.

Questions for government and departments?

We are in constant dialogue with government and departments, as well as wider sector partners to raise your concerns and to make sure the things that need to be considered are being considered. If you have questions about policy, implementation or future impact that you would like us to pose to them (hopefully we have already!), around apprenticeships, data, exams and qualifications, English and maths, finance, online learning, or anything else, then please send them to

Apprenticeships guidance

The Department for Education shared a further two pieces of guidance yesterday. The first was advice on maintaining further education provision, and the second was guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations. It has sparked a lot of discussion throughout the day, with providers understandably concerned about the impact on funding and lack of assurance being provided. We are processing the new measures announced and the implications they will have on the delivery of training provision.  

We recognise that this has not provided much comfort for colleges, particularly in financial terms, and are setting out the additional flexibilities we believe would help. The approach taken across education so far has been to rightly protect the pupil/student/learner and we are keen to extend that principal to apprentices as well. We have today published our AoC asks for apprenticeship support, which has also been sent to Minister Gillian Keegan and the Shadow Minister Emma Hardy.

We are in the process of writing to the apprenticeships and skills minister about this, and also detailing our concerns not just on apprenticeships but also the wider issues regarding emergency funding, solvency and cashflow. This will be sent tomorrow. We will keep you informed on the discussions we continue to have with officials and feedback through this daily alert and our resource hub.

Following a meeting with Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, we have also provided a briefing note for the informal (digital) meeting of the Education Select Committee tomorrow, attended by Gillian Keegan on the topic of apprenticeships.

UCAS - decision deadline extended to May

UCAS has given prospective higher education students an extra two weeks to make a decision about their future place of study, also giving colleges more time to adjust their processes in what are highly unusual times. All students will receive an email from UCAS this week with the new May deadline.

Employment resources for colleges

Further to Irwin Mitchell’s guidance yesterday on the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, they have today provided three more FAQ/guidance documents:

Vulnerable and SEND students

As the number of students with EHC plans actually coming into colleges is very small, many are working with the student’s Local Authority to arrange the most suitable venue and support for all students in the same locality. When EHCP students or other vulnerable students are working at home, colleges are providing the learning and emotional support they need, this may range from telephone contact every day to less frequent checking in.

Vicky Ford, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families has sent an open letter to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), their parents, families and others who support them. The letter signposts key Covid-19 guidance published over the past week and is attached below.

Yesterday’s alert included information about vulnerable students with  emotional/mental health difficulties but without an EHC plan. Colleges we have been in contact with are not arranging for these students to attend college. But are organising a system of keeping in touch with them by phone or online once a day or less frequently depending on the assessed level of need. Apologies, we included a broken link for the DfE FAQs in relation to vulnerable children and young people. You can view them here.

Good news and examples of best practice

We’re really keen to hear about the best practice and innovative ideas colleges are undertaking during these difficult times. If you or any staff members have interesting stories about how learning has been adapted for students self-isolating - perhaps examples of where innovative and interesting technology is being used to teach virtually. Or perhaps an unusual and uplifting story about your college and community we’d love to hear about it. We know that this will be useful for the new Minister to see, as well as to share across the sector. Please email Philippa Alway.

These are unprecedented times for us all, and any resources or examples you would be willing to share with other colleges could make a real difference.

Tutorial video provided for new attendance recording and submission

A video tutorial has been released by DfE to assist providers in the new process for recording and reporting attendance.

Working from home guidance

AoC is currently working with the National Cyber Security Centre GCHQ and Ofsted on guidance around safeguarding and security whilst home working. We’ll share as soon as it’s available. In the meantime you can view their current homeworking information here.

WorldSkills postpones all qualifiers until end of June

WorldSkills UK has taken the decision to postpone all qualifiers scheduled for April through to June. It continues to monitor Government coronavirus advice and ensure safety remains the number one priority. WorldSkills UK is working with its partners to agree alternative arrangements for the competitions and therefore encourages everyone to continue to register before the upcoming deadline. WorldSkills UK has created a page for updates and FAQs and will update this regularly to keep everyone informed.

AoC Webinar Q&A Session - Friday 27 March, 2pm

We are going to be running another online Q&A session on Friday 27 March at 2pm for college leaders. There will be updates from AoC and the opportunity for you to ask questions of us. This week we are also inviting questions in advance, please email Sam Ayerst if you have anything you would like answered during the session. We will endeavour to address as many as possible in the session otherwise they will be collated and responded to as soon as possible. You can sign up here.

Best wishes,

David Hughes,

Chief Executive