Clarity sought for plans to re-open further education colleges from September

Following today’s statement on the return of schools in Wales for face-to-face learning, we look forward to collaborating with the Minster for Education and her Government officials as we await specific guidance for the further education (FE) sector. It will be essential for us to receive this clarification no later than next week given that colleges are set to re-open on the same day as schools and will require as much time as possible to prepare.

Provision for FE colleges must differ to that of schools

With a diverse group of learners, from vocational through to A level, it will be essential that appropriate provision is made to ensure their safe return to face-to-face learning. ColegauCymru on behalf of its members is requesting clarity and guidance at the earliest possible opportunity. Whilst the school and FE education sectors are different, we are disappointed that the provision for FE has not been clarified at the same time as schools, particularly as the sector is already noting confusion and misunderstanding amongst learners and parents.

Key considerations

There are key areas to consider in this process, none more so than that of funding to mitigate some of the damage already done to young peoples’ learning by the Covid19 pandemic. They include:

  • Support for young adults and learners above the age of 19, as the relaxing of social distancing rules which has been announced for schools will not always be appropriate in a college setting.
  • Acknowledging the added cost of making appropriate provision to accommodate a higher volume of learners on campus. Annual enrolment for 2020/21 will be increased as a number of current vocational learners return in September to complete their qualifications and to gain their Licence to Practice certificates.
  • As in schools, specific support will be required for resit learners who may not have received the results they had hoped for in GCSEs and individuals who may want to re-sit their AS Level examinations.
  • Additional funding to meet the specific needs of the many ALN and ILS learners will also be needed.

These examples alone will bring with them unprecedented logistical issues such as transport, the ongoing requirements of awarding bodies, and the delivery of a person-centred curriculum. And with just over 6 weeks before the start of the new academic year, it is essential for our members to receive guidance to be able plan appropriately. It is vitally important that the specific needs of this diverse group of learners are not overlooked, and to ensure their safety and that of staff and the wider learning community.

Working together

We are reassured that Welsh Government have always put the needs and safety of learners at the very heart of their decision-making process. We look forward to working closely with them as they continue to do so. And to the resumption of academic and vocational learning across Wales’ further education colleges.

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