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Changes to learning, exams, and attending schools and colleges during the coronavirus pandemic.

First published:
24 March 2020
Last updated:

Contents

Will colleges be opening in September?

Yes. Colleges will be able to open but things are likely to work differently for the time being. To help keep learners and staff safe, colleges will be planning to keep contact to a minimum. For full-time learners this will mean staying in “contact groups” and not mixing with larger groups.  For part-time and adult learners this is likely to mean maintaining social distancing of two metres when they are on campus.

Contact your college for more detailed information on what this might mean for you and your course.

Why are the arrangements different for full-time and part-time learners?

Part-time and adult learners often have jobs, including apprentices who attend college for part of their training. This means that they are in contact with more people and this increases the risk of Covid-19 transmission. To help ensure colleges can manage this risk, we have asked them to put additional controls in place for these groups of learners.

Will I have to wear face coverings or personal protective equipment (PPE) when I’m at college?

Your college may require you to wear PPE in some cases, for example if you’re studying a course which involve contact with other people. Face coverings aren’t required by our guidance, but you can choose to wear one if you prefer to. You can see more information about face coverings .

Will I still be doing any of my learning online?

Yes, in many cases your college or learning provider will give you some online learning to do alongside your college-based learning. This will help to cut down on the time you need to spend in college and help keep you safe.

What if I want to carry on learning at home and don’t feel safe going into college at all?

Contact your college or other learning provider to talk through your concerns and see what may be possible for your course.

I should be going on a work placement as part of my course, will it still go ahead?

This will depend on the risk assessment carried out by your college or learning provider. You may be able to complete your work placement if your college is content that the workplace is safe for you, and if you are able to keep to two metre social distancing in work and at college. Contact your college if you have questions about this.

What happens if there’s an increase in Covid-19 infections – will colleges close again?

We will be monitoring this closely and it’s possible that colleges may have to close for a period of time, if infection rates go up again. All colleges are planning for this situation so that learning can carry on during any future period of lockdown.

Will A level, GCSE and vocational examinations/assessments still take place this year?

No.  It has been confirmed that GCSE and A level examinations will not take place this summer.  Learners due to sit their GCSEs and A levels this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work, drawing on the range of information that is available. Qualifications Wales published an update on Friday 20 March on the issuing of grades for publication in summer 2020.

We are still considering the fairest way to issue grades for learners who are studying vocational qualifications and the Welsh Baccalaureate.

Qualifications Wales most recent statement on the approach for vocational qualifications.

When will I get my A level results?

Results day for A levels and AS levels will be as originally scheduled, on 13 August.

What’s happening with assessment of BTECs and other vocational qualifications?

We are still working on arrangements for vocational qualifications. This is more complicated than for A levels and GCSEs, because most vocational qualifications are offered across the UK and there are many different awarding bodies involved. Some learners also need to do practical assessments to complete their qualifications, which isn’t possible while colleges are closed for face-to-face learning.

Qualifications Wales is working with other UK qualifications regulators and will be confirming arrangements soon. You can see their latest updates and FAQs.

It has been confirmed that learners who were due to complete Essential Skills Wales qualifications by 31 July 2020 will receive a calculated result. More details are available here.

What are colleges and training providers doing to make sure it’s safe to return?

Every college and training provider must complete detailed risk assessments and thorough planning before inviting learners and staff to return. This includes looking at their buildings to make sure that they can follow social distancing requirements; putting guidance in place for staff and learners; planning timetables so that they can manage the numbers of people involved; and stepping up their cleaning and disinfecting arrangements. 

If you have specific questions, contact your college or training provider who will be able to give you details of their arrangements.

I have a shielding letter and am classed as “extremely vulnerable”, should I attend college?

We are due to update shielding guidance in mid-August and this should mean that learners and staff who were shielding will be able to return to college. If you have concerns about this, talk to your college to see what support is available for you.

I live with someone who is shielding, should I attend college?

Our current shielding guidance is that household members do not themselves have to shield, but should follow social distancing guidelines, including when they are at home. If this is not possible for you (for example, if you have caring responsibility for someone who is shielding), talk to your college or training provider about your situation.

I’m concerned about whether it’s safe for me to go into college, what should I do?

Talk to your college or training provider in the first instance; they will be able to discuss your concerns and tell you what measures have been put in place to manage risks around Covid-19. If you don’t feel comfortable in returning at this time, your college or training provider may be able to make arrangements for you to learn at home, depending on your course.

I live in Wales but go to college in England and have been asked to return, am I allowed to travel?

All residents of Wales are required to follow the latest Welsh Government guidance on travel restrictions, however, travel to and from a college in England for learners living in Wales would be classed as a reasonable excuse for leaving home.

If anyone in your household is showing symptoms of the virus (a persistent cough or a high temperature or loss of or change to their usual sense of smell or taste) they should stay at home to avoid spreading infection to others and follow the social distancing guidance. It remains the responsibility of individuals to decide whether their travel complies with Welsh Government guidance.

What can I do to help keep myself safe while attending college, during travel and when I return home?

There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself and other safe:

  • Be careful to keep your distance, including in areas like halls, canteens, entrances and exits as well as in your classroom or workshop. If your college tells you to stay in a contact group with other learners studying the same kind of course, make sure you stay within the group.
  • Think about how you travel to your college or training centre and try to avoid public transport if possible
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly throughout the day and when you get home
  • If you see another learner not following social distancing guidelines, report them to a member of staff at your college or training centre.
  • If you feel unwell, tell your college or training provider immediately, go home, and stay there for 7 days. The main symptoms of Covid-19 are:
    1. a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature).
    2. a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).
    3. a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal.

Will Education Maintenance Allowance or Welsh Government Learning Grant payments still continue?

Yes, colleges and schools are allowed to continue EMA and WGLG (FE) payments for eligible learners during the COVID-19 pandemic, at their discretion.  Learner absence for reasons of illness, self-isolation or college closure can all be treated as authorised absences. Please contact your college or school if you require more information.

Learners can still apply for EMA for academic year 2019/20. The deadline is 31 August 2020, however, please be aware that the timescales for processing applications may be a little longer than usual. Applications can be downloaded from www.studentfinancewales.co.uk/ema

Please remember that EMA payments can only be made for school and college term times. EMA payments are paid fortnightly.

WGLG (FE) applications for academic year 2019/20 must be received by Student Finance Wales within 9 months of starting your course. Applications can be downloaded from www.studentfinancewales.co.uk/fe/wglg

WGLG (FE) payments are paid termly.

I’m planning to go to university in the autumn. Is there any online learning or support I can access to help me prepare?

We are working with colleges and universities to create online learning resources for learners planning to progress into higher education. These include subject-specific learning, as well as resources to help with study skills and research. You can access all the resources here.

Will my college keep their nursery open?

Contact your college or check their website for the latest information.

The Welsh Government published an update on 20 March regarding childcare provision and support for critical workers and vulnerable children.

What should schools be doing to support learners who have finished their GCSE or A level studies and are moving on to further or higher education in autumn?

Schools still have a duty of care for these learners and should provide them with learning activities, resources, advice and guidance to help them prepare for their next stage of learning. Resources and information for Year 11 and Year 13 pupils, including the Seren cohort, are available on our post-16 distance learning page on Hwb.

How is the Welsh Government planning to work with the post-16 sector in response to Covid-19?

We’ve published a Covid-19 Post-16 Resilience Plan which gives an overview of our plans over the coming months, our ways of working, and some of the key actions we’ll be taking to help support the sector, its staff and learners. We are now putting together a more detailed delivery plan, which will include working groups with representation from across our partners and learning provider network.

I’m studying an Access to Higher Education Diploma, will I get results based on predicted grades in the same way as A level learners?

Yes, students who planned to complete their Access to HE studies by 31 July 2020 will be awarded a graded Diploma, based on the assessment they have already completed and calculated grades for all remaining assessments that have submission dates after 20 March 2020.Further information is available on QAA’s website.

How will COVID-19 affect further education performance measures for 2019/20?

The Welsh Government will not be producing achievement and value added measures for further education for 2019/20, or learner outcomes reports for adult learning. We want colleges and other learning providers to continue to submit learner data, as normal, so that the impact of COVID-19 can be better understood, but this will not be used for performance measures.

What support will be available for learners who don't have access to computers at home?

We understand that each institution is taking action to ensure all learners can access e-learning, for example through loaning laptops to learners who do not have facilities at home. Learners should be able to get further information from their learning provider.

We have provided some funding to colleges and other learning providers to buy laptops and other equipment to help learners who don’t have their own.

We have asked learning providers to prioritise learner well-being and to provide support and updates remotely, wherever possible, through phone, email and online methods.

How is the COVID-19 response working in the post-16 sector?

The Minister for Education has published a COVID-19 Resilience Plan for the post-16 sector, the equivalent to the Continuity of Learning policy statement for schools. This sets out how the Welsh Government will work with partners and the sector to support learners’ continuity and progression.

The best thing to do is contact your local college – they will be able to give you lots of information and advice, both about the college itself and the subjects you are interested in. Many colleges are holding “virtual open days” where you can get a feel for what studying in further education is like.

Our Bridge to Post-16 Learning and Skills page on Hwb includes resources, information and online courses to help you decide what to do next.

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