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

First published:
24 March 2020
Last updated:

College operations

What measures are in place to ensure that colleges and training providers are safe for learners and staff?

Our updated operational guidance sets out how colleges and training providers should operate from September 2021.

They must also follow the reasonable measures guidance, which sets out requirements on employers to carry out risk assessments. For additional guidance, see the Health and Safety Executive’s website (external link). 

At alert level zero, there will be more flexibility to determine what is required to manage risks. However, COVID-19 has not gone away, and reducing close interactions between individuals is still important in helping to control its spread.

Should I attend college if I don’t feel well?

You can still go to college if you have mild cold-like symptoms, but should not attend if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

The three main symptoms of COVID-19 to be aware of are:

  • a new continuous cough
  • fever or high temperature
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste

If you develop one of these symptoms or if you have had a positive lateral flow test, you should follow the self-isolation guidance and apply for a coronavirus test.

Am I required to self-isolate if I am identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus?

All adults who have been fully-vaccinated, or those under 18, are no longer required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus. Advice will be offered for these individuals to minimise any risks and stay safe.

There may be certain circumstances where fully vaccinated and under 18s contacts may still be asked to self-isolate by the Test, Trace, Protect service: further advice will be provided in this instance.

From 11 October, learners in secondary school and FE colleges who are under 18 and have a household member who has tested positive are recommended to:

  • continue to take PCR tests on day 2 and day 8
  • take daily lateral flow tests every day for seven days before they leave their home. This should start on the day a household contact is confirmed as positive from a lateral flow or PCR test result

Further information is available on Schools: coronavirus guidance.

I’m due to start an apprenticeship, will it go ahead?

Yes, you should be able to start, but check with your employer and training provider. Your training provider will need to do a health and safety review to make sure that it’s safe for your assessor to visit you in your workplace.

I’m due to go on work experience soon as part of my college course, will that still go ahead?

From September, this will be a local decision for colleges to make, supported by public health officials and local authorities, depending on the level of risk identified locally. Your college will be able to inform you whether your work experience can go ahead at that time.

I am due to go on a work placement as part of my course, will it still go ahead?

Yes, work placements as part of college or traineeship courses can go ahead subject to risk assessments.

Contact your college or training provider if you have questions about this.

Can inter-college sports fixtures take place?

Both indoor and outdoor regulated gatherings can now take place. This includes team sports fixtures.

Colleges need to ensure that they undertake a risk assessment, and take all reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus.

They should also consider of any guidance published by the relevant National Governing Body for the sport in question.

Will Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) or Welsh Government Learning Grant (WGLG) payments still continue?

Yes, schools and colleges 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 school or college if you require more information.

Learners can apply for EMA for academic year 2021 to 2022. EMA applications can be downloaded from Student Finance Wales or contact your school or college to ask for an application form.

Please remember that EMA payments can only be made for school and college term times. EMA payments are paid fortnightly and learners must sign their EMA Learning Agreement before payments can be released.

WGLG (FE) applications for academic year 2021 to 2022 must be received by Student Finance Wales within nine months of starting your course. WGLG applications can be downloaded from Student Finance Wales or contact your college to ask for an application form.

WGLG (FE) payments are paid termly and learners must sign their WGLG (FE) Learning Grant Agreement before payments can be released.

Please be aware that the timescales for processing EMA and WGLG (FE) applications and evidence may be a little longer than usual.

Face coverings

Will I have to wear face coverings when I’m at college?

We no longer recommend the routine use of face coverings in the classroom for staff or learners. Colleges and training providers may wish to encourage their use in areas where there is likely to be more social mixing, such as in communal areas.

Face coverings should be worn by all learners when travelling on dedicated home to college transport (unless there is a medical exemption).  They should also be worn by members of the public who are visiting colleges.

If anyone wishes to wear a face covering for personal reasons anywhere in the college they should be permitted to do so. This may help support their wider well-being, reduce anxiety and provide additional reassurance for some individuals alongside other mitigating measures.

Vaccinations

Where can I find information on vaccinations?

In Wales, we are working to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority schedule.

The JCVI is the expert body which advises all four UK governments, and the priority schedule of vaccination we are working to is the same as the schedule for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Further information and updates on our vaccination strategy are available.

Staff and learners defined as clinically extremely vulnerable

Should staff and learners who are clinically extremely vulnerable attend college?

Please refer to the guidance on protecting people defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable. Your college is responsible for making sure that reasonable measures are in place to minimise risks of exposure to COVID-19, and if you have any concerns you should discuss these with your college. 

You may also find it useful to read the guidance for the public on protective behaviours that can help to manage risks.