Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for further education
Guidance has been developed to assist the Further Education sector to safely welcome learners back on-site.
This guidance can be found at this link Framework for the safe resumption of on-site educational provision
Additional guidance specific to training in close contact subjects can be found at: Addendum: Framework for the safe resumption of on-site educational provision
Further education colleges
From 24th May the Further Education colleges will welcome back an increased number of students to onsite face-to-face learning across the full range of provision. Delivery models will include face to face delivery and virtual learning, with some programmes delivered through an alternating model that includes elements of both. The specific delivery model chosen in each case will take into consideration the capacity and capability of the learner, and the needs of the specific course.
Extracurricular and support activities can also resume from 24 May and activities must be carried out in compliance with any related guidance and with mitigations in place.
Colleges will continue to adhere to all relevant government issued industry and workplace restrictions and guidance for training in occupational settings.
Students with symptoms of coronavirus
If you have coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate. Under no circumstances should you attend college, but you should continue your studies from home if you are able to do so.
You should arrange to get tested as soon as possible.
Student finance and support
Educational Maintenance Allowance
If you are diagnosed with Covid-19 and cannot complete your work, you should contact your school or college and let them know. They may be able to provide you with advice and other support.
If there are further school or college closures during the academic year 2020/2021 due to COVID-19, EMA support will continue for eligible students on condition that they will be continuing their studies via online learning provision.
Self-isolation due to Covid-19 can be deemed an authorised absence for the purposes of EMA, in which case EMA support would continue to be payable.
Free school meals
Additional money has been allocated to fund the direct payment of free school meal allowances for eligible school-age further education students, this arrangement will continue for term 2 and will be reviewed in advance of term 3.
Further to this, households of further education students eligible for free school meals will receive holiday payments during college holidays from Christmas 2020 to Easter 2022.
Support for students in financial hardship
There are a range of permanent student financial support arrangements that have been in place over many years for eligible students. These include FE Grants and College Hardship Fund. Advice should be sought in the first instance from the student support manager in your college.
Maintenance support for students who change accommodation
If your circumstances have changed and you’ll now be living at home with parents rather than in your own accommodation, you’ll need to update your living location details in your online account at www.studentfinanceni.co.uk. You’ll also need to update your details if you were supposed to be studying abroad this year but will now be staying in the UK to study online with your overseas provider.
As part of your student finance agreement, you must keep Student Finance NI up to date with where you’ll be living each term, as this may affect how much you have to repay and when.
Mental health support for students
All the Further Education (FE) colleges have in place a range of support measures aimed at promoting the health and wellbeing of students by providing access to appropriate guidance, support and counselling services. Students should refer to their Student Handbook for the contact details of their college student support officer.
Your mental health and wellbeing is important. Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time of life and in different ways. There is a range of conditions that can affect mental health. There is also a range of mental health services that can provide help and support. Further information can be found at the link below:
If you have concerns about whether your FE college is keeping its nursery open, you should contact your college in the first instance for advice.
The Department for the Economy is currently examining the implications of the current situation for the childcare element of an FE grant; assistance for childcare through the Care to Learn/Hardship Fund, and hopes to be in a position to provide advice very soon.
Qualifications and Placements
GCSEs/ A Levels / BTEC qualifications next year
Any queries regarding GCSE & A-Levels should be addressed to the Department for Education in the first instance.
With regard to BTECs and all vocational qualifications, it is intended that normal assessments will progress as per previous years. However the Awarding Organisations are developing adaptations in the event that this is not possible, for example in a scenario such as lockdown. These adaptations will start being communicated to centres from 23 October 2020.
Work placements for FE students
Awarding organisations are working on adaptations to their qualifications to ensure learners can receive their awards as normal. Qualifications that involve work placements will be part of this. However, for some qualifications work placements may be essential and your school/college will be able to advise you as to any adaptations that may be made.
Qualifications with a license to practise
This will form part of the Vocation Qualifications adaptation guidance from Awarding Organisations. Awarding Organisations will start to communicate these to the centres from 23 October 2020. Your learning centre will then be in a position to advise you further on your individual qualification.