Covid testing: AoC urges leaders not to feel pressured

College leaders should not feel they have to give up holiday to prepare for mass testing, says Association of Colleges
21st December 2020, 12:42pm
Julia Belgutay

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Covid testing: AoC urges leaders not to feel pressured

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/covid-testing-aoc-urges-leaders-not-feel-pressured
Coronavirus: Colleges Shouldn't Feel They Have To Plan For Covid Mass Testing Over The Christmas Holidays, Says Aoc

College leaders should not feel that they have to start planning for the announced January rollout of mass coronavirus testing in FE during the festive period, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges has said. 

In an alert to AoC members, chief executive David Hughes said those colleges that wished to move on with test planning should get in touch with their contacts at the Education and Skills Funding Agency this week or next , "but it is completely legitimate for you NOT to make contact until next year".

Colleges were told last week that large-scale testing will be rolled out across schools and the FE sector from 4 January. On Friday, the AoC co-signed a joint letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson, stating that the government's plan for mass testing in its current form was "inoperable" for most colleges to carry out "in a safe and effective manner", and they should not be forced to roll it out.


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In his reply, education secretary Gavin Williamson said he recognised and understood "the frustration in the system over the timing of this testing announcement - coming so near the end of term when staff are in need of a break". Unions and membership organisations then subsequently met with Mr Williamson on Saturday.

Coronavirus: Mass testing in FE colleges

In his alert, Mr Hughes wrote that Saturday's meetings and discussions "elicited the further information that government has set aside £78 million to cover testing costs in both schools and colleges on the assumption, it seems, of £15 cost per head". "We don't have any information on how DfE or ESFA calculated this, nor how they plan to handle funding or whether they will be spending some of this directly."

Mr Hughes told Tes: "I felt compelled to write to college leaders today because I did not want them to believe they had to start planning for mass testing this week or next week.

"I was reassured by the education secretary in the meeting on Saturday that no pressure will be put on college leaders to start testing from 4 January. 

"However, I know most leaders want testing to be in place as early as possible and when they come back in January they will be keen to explore how that can be made to happen." 

Speaking exclusively to Tes last week, apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan said she believed colleges were safe for staff and students and there had been "relatively few cases" of Covid-19 in most institutions. She added that the news announced earlier this week that mass testing would be available to colleges after Christmas would be a "game-changer" and a "great comfort" to students, staff and parents.

She told Tes that the government had done a great deal to support colleges in dealing with the financial impact of the coronavirus, introducing flexibilities and ensuring that basic income from the Department for Education remained at the same level. "Ultimately, we are there to stand behind colleges," she said, adding that she believed the government had "the right balance there".

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