URGENT: For immediate member action


Implementation of the new coronavirus contingency framework and a phased return to learning provision required at the start of January.


The government is mandating a phased return for learners attending physical institutions for training and education for the Spring Term and this impacts all FE providers including ITPs, as well as colleges and schools.

Critically this means that most providers will need to reschedule their operational delivery which was due to take place next week, with many learners due to attend classroom-based training across a range of different programmes across the country. The timetable which providers in England must now adhere to is as follows:

  • W/C 4th January 2021: All FE providers (including ITPs) to provide remote education for learners in exam years and face-to-face training and education only for vulnerable and critical worker children.
  • W/C 11th January 2021: Commencement of face-to-face education for exam years and vulnerable and critical worker children and remote learning for other FE learners.
  • W/C 18th January 2021: Return to face-to-face training for mainstream provision

For clarity we have provided the current government definition of “vulnerable young people” below. Vulnerable young people include those who:

  • are assessed as being in need under section 17 of the Children Act 1989, including children and young people who have a child in need plan, a child protection plan or who are a looked-after child
  • have an education, health and care (EHC) plan
  • have been identified as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities (including children’s social care services), and who could therefore benefit from continued full-time attendance, this might include:
  • children and young people on the edge of receiving support from children’s social care services or in the process of being referred to children’s services
  • adopted children or children on a special guardianship order; those at risk of becoming ‘not in employment, education or training’ (NEET)
  • those living in temporary accommodation; those who are young carers; those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study)
  • care leavers
  • other children and young people at the provider and local authority’s discretion, including students who need to attend to receive support or manage risks to their mental health.

Definition reference: Further education (FE) providers: return in January 2021 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

In conference calls today with sector stakeholders, Minister Keegan and senior officials were keen to emphasise that provision can be resumed from 4 January for vulnerable learners who include those who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home (for example due to a lack of devices or quiet space to study).

Work based learning
For work based programmes such as apprenticeships, the government has reaffirmed that apprenticeship delivery and assessment (including the assessment of functional skills qualifications) is extremely flexible and should continue to take place in person where doing so remotely is not possible.

This includes training and assessment in the workplace (unless the workplace is required to close under local restriction tiers), in education and assessment settings and in community settings where a venue is being used for training or assessment.

However, it is important to note that where off-the-job training takes place in a physical educational centre, then the timetable of return and priority of learners as detailed above should also apply.

The government has also implemented a new contingency framework for education settings in areas of the country with very high rates of incidence or transmission of the Covid-19 virus, with the first local authority areas to move into the framework listed found in Annex A here. It is important to note that there is not an automatic correlation between areas in scope for the contingency framework and the current wider regional Covid-19 tier system.

Educational delivery remains a government priory in Tier 4 regions and this allows the continuation of face-to-face training and education as long as suitable Covid-19 precautions are maintained.

Where a training centre is located within a local authority covered by the contingency framework, FE providers should allow daily attendance only to vulnerable young people, the children of critical workers and priority learners; for example, those in exam or final assessment year groups or who are unable to complete their educational programme remotely. High-quality remote education should be provided for all other learners, who should not attend in person.

In the light of the above, AELP strongly advises members to contact their learners and employers as soon as possible to inform them of the phased return to learning.

Asymptomatic testing
The government’s plans for rolling out asymptomatic testing from the start of January (Mass asymptomatic testing: schools and colleges - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)) do not presently include arrangements for ITPs during the first phase. In the calls today, officials confirmed that plans for ITPs were being considered but they were not yet in a position to communicate a timeline for when such testing would commence.

AELP has requested another meeting with the Department for early January to discuss the latest announcements, their impact on work based learning and a further response from the government.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)
31st December 2020

Jane Hickie, Managing Director

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