Today the Department for Education has published guidance to support colleges to fully reopen in September. Responding to the announcement by the Education Secretary, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes said: “Since the outbreak of COVID19, colleges have been pragmatic and acted swiftly to protect student safety, whilst also protecting their continued access to learning and training. Students should be confident that they will continue to receive a high quality education with great pastoral support as colleges continue to increase the numbers of students able to return to their sites.
“This guidance offers some clarity to college leaders and staff planning for the safe reopening of their building and campuses in September, but they should continue to make their decisions based on health and safety advice and their local context.
“There is no doubt that much of the teaching in colleges will need to be a blend of online and on-campus delivery, and colleges have learned a lot about how that mix can work best for different groups of students. Colleges will all be facing different challenges in September and will know what works best for them in regards to the amount of teaching and learning to keep online and the students or provision that have an urgent need for face-to-face delivery.
“It is right that the government has focused on getting young people back into education and training as quickly as possible, but there remains a gap that needs to be plugged. Students leaving school face an uphill challenge to get back on track with their learning, colleges are preparing to help them as much as they can but they need the same catch up support that have been given to their peers in schools. Anything less is indefensible.
“Government must also look urgently into how they safely bring adults back into education and training. It cannot be right that an adult can now go to the pub with their mates, but they cannot undertake an assessment to complete their construction course, even when things have been put in place to make it safe to do so.
“Colleges are working extremely hard to ensure they are ready to offer the best experience to their new and returning students. There are still questions that will need clarification ahead of September, including around transport, minimising contact and mixing and for students with a work experience or placement element to their studies. They also need to clarify funding rules that will allow colleges to deliver all that is being asked.
“AoC will continue to work with officials to ensure students and staff can transition back into colleges safely when the new term arrives.”