COVID-19: Latest advice for colleges

COVID-19: Latest advice for colleges

This page will be updated daily, but the very latest government advice can always be found here. 

The SFCA Online Learning Hub contains a range of resources to aid online learning and is also updated on a regular basis. Click here to access the hub.

Sixth form colleges, as well as all other schools and colleges, are now closed until further notice, except for children of key workers and vulnerable students, who should be able to attend through the Easter holidays. The summer 2020 exam series has been cancelled, and grades will be awarded to students based on a combination of teacher assessment and statistical modelling. Further detail on what all this means for colleges is below.

Children of key workers and vulnerable students

Parents who believe they fall into one of the categories below have been asked to check with their employers whether this is the case. The categories include:

  • Health and social care
  • Education and childcare
  • Key public services
  • Local and national government
  • Food and necessary goods workers
  • Public safety and national security
  • Transport
  • Utilities, communication, and financial services

The full list is here. Colleges may ask for evidence of the parent's occupation, such as a work ID badge or payslip, if appropriate.

However, ‘many parents working in these sectors may be able to ensure their child is kept at home. And every child who can be safely cared for at home should be’. As such, the majority of children of key workers in sixth form colleges are likely to be able to stay home.

Vulnerable students ‘include children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans.’ While children with a social worker should attend college if possible, with exceptions to be discussed with families by the college and social worker, children with EHCPs who can be kept home safely should be; this decision should be made by the college in discussion with parents and the local authority. Students who are known to the college to be vulnerable and who cannot stay home safely, even if they do not have an EHCP or social worker, can freely be offered provision, at the provider's discretion. More guidance is available here, including on how colleges should decide which students with EHCPs should continue to attend and which students with social workers should not. If colleges or parents decide students with a social worker should not attend, the social worker must be informed. 

The fundamental principle is that children who can be kept safely at home should be, in order to minimise the risk of transmission within colleges and during transportation, while those who cannot should continue to receive the care and education they are entitled to. Balancing these two considerations is key for schools and colleges.

Free school meals

Colleges are expected to continue making free school meals available to eligible students throughout the closure, using one of the following options:

  • Ask existing catering providers and services, if possible, to continue to use FSM funding to make food parcels and meals to be collected from college or delivered to homes
  • Use a local school acting as a community hub or a local charity to offer free school meals
  • Provide families with supermarket vouchers (a national scheme to do this for schools has now been launched; clarity is expected on whether this extends to colleges soon)

Additional costs incurred due to the use of one of these measures to continue FSM provision will be reimbursed by government. For further information, see here.

Exams and qualifications

  • Students due to sit exams this summer will instead be awarded a grade based on teacher judgments (which teachers will make based on mocks and non-exam assessment, guided by DfE/Ofqual advice) combined with prior attainment and other data, including typical progress made by previous students at an institution.
  • Grades will be available hopefully by the end of July, and have a similar distribution as in previous years. They can be appealed.
  • For vocational courses where work has already been completed and assessed, these grades are likely to form part of the judgment.
  • Calculated grades will 'count' for the same as examined grades in previous years, and universities will honour offers as usual. Some universities have started to make conditional offers unconditional in response to the announcement, but they have been asked to pause doing so over the next two weeks as the process for calculating grades becomes clearer.
  • Students will also be able to sit exams early next academic year or in summer 2021 if they wish if unhappy with the system or the grade they receive.
  • The process for apprenticeships is slightly more complicated due to the work-based nature of learning and assessment. Detailed guidance on apprenticeships is here. If assessment can be carried out online, it should be; otherwise, if workplaces are closed to assessors, end-point assessments will be delayed until they become possible. Apprentices who have been made redundant should be supported by their training provider to find a new role within the next twelve weeks.

The full guidance is here, and the response of the SFCA chief executive to the news is here.

Operation of colleges while partially closed

  • If possible, colleges should remain open to vulnerable students and children of key workers through the Easter holidays.
  • Stop taking usual attendance registers. Instead, submit numbers to the DfE by midday each day via this form, and consider using the spreadsheet here to record attendance to speed up the process. There is a tutorial here for filling out the form. If you decide to close for a period because you have insufficient staff to safely open or because you have confirmed that all vulnerable students can be kept safe at home, submit an attendance form on the day you close indicating this; begin submitting the form again when you reopen.
  • Normal statutory requirements of colleges have been loosened; the priority is to continue to maintain safeguarding and supervision of students. Curriculum requirements have been lifted, so that colleges can focus on maintaining adequate care for vulnerable students and children of key workers however is appropriate given staff capacity and student numbers.
  • Colleges can continue to provide educational resources and teaching to students at home, but are not required to continue with the curriculum as normal. If you are able to provide a full schedule of online classes, this is excellent practice, but is not compulsory. DfE and the BBC will be releasing content and resources for parents to use directly with students.
  • Colleges with residential provision should continue to operate a full residential service where they have the staff to do so safely. Further information on this, and what to do if there is an outbreak at the college, is here.
  • Safeguarding should remain a priority, and Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance continues to apply. The designated safeguarding lead or a deputy should be easily reachable during the college day, either in person or at home. There is more detailed information on safeguarding, including online safety, here.
  • Ofsted has officially halted routine inspections.
  • Newly-Qualified Teachers who miss a significant amount of their statutory induction period due to Covid-19 will not have their induction period extended - providing that they fulfil the Teachers' Standards, they can complete their induction this academic year as expected. For more on NQTs, see here.

Safety of those still in college

Staff and students should stay home if they develop a new, continuous cough or high temperature; if they develop symptoms while in college, they should be moved to a room where they can be alone if possible until they can be collected. If this is not possible, they should be moved to an area at least 2 metres away from others. If they need to use the bathroom, they should use a separate bathroom if possible and the bathroom should be cleaned and disinfected before it is used by anyone else. Further information on how to effectively clean a space where a symptomatic person has spent time can be found here; you should also be cleaning all spaces more often than usual. If you have a confirmed case within your college, contact Public Health England here, who will organise a deep clean of the college.

Those self-isolating and living alone should stay home for 7 days from the start of their symptoms, while households where a member has symptoms should all stay home for 14 days. If there is anyone in your college community who is over 70, pregnant, or has one of a number of chronic illnesses (including asthma, diabetes, a learning disability, or a BMI over 40; the full list is here), they should follow social distancing measures particularly closely; they are ‘strongly advised’ against social mixing or working in the office. Those with a particularly serious underlying condition (including some cancers, severe asthma, and organ transpant recipients; the full list is here) should not leave their homes for the next twelve weeks.

Everyone, no matter how vulnerable, is now being advised to stay home except to exercise, buy essentials, care for others, or attend school or work where necessary. In colleges and other educational settings, social distancing measures such as small class sizes, staggered break times, and reduced travel should be observed; more information on this is here. College trips overseas or domestically for students under 18 should be cancelled, and the government is now advising against non-essential travel outside the country for everyone. Further travel guidance is available here.


  • The government has guaranteed that 16-19 and Adult Education Budget funding as allocated for this academic year will continue and will not be reduced.
  • Some providers may face additional costs as a result of the COVID-19 response; a scheme will be set up in the coming days to reimburse these.
  • For apprenticeships, the DfE recommends that providers continue to train apprentices via online learning. Some apprentices' workplaces may also remain open during the crisis. However, where apprentices need to take a break of four weeks or more, they or their employer/training provider must report this to ESFA, and the payment of funding will be paused. This will mean extending the apprenticeship's end date.

For the latest advice for educational settings, see here; the page is updated regularly. SFCA staff are monitoring government advice as it changes, and are also working to collate member queries for the DfE and Ofqual; if you have a question for officials, please send it to Noni.

Other helpful links:

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