Colleges could lose between £500,000 and £1 million per month if they have to be closed in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Association of Colleges has warned.
In a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson, chief executive David Hughes says there would be significant financial implications of closing colleges.
Mr Hughes writes: "Every college is implementing its emergency planning procedures, working to the government's advice, monitoring staff and student illnesses and absences and making decisions which are right for their circumstances.
Coronavirus and colleges
"It is difficult to put an accurate figure on the financial impact, but it would be fair to suggest that an average college might lose between £500,000 and £1 million per month of temporary closure or reduced capacity. Very few, if any, will be able to cope without government support."
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The AoC is calling for assurances from the government on:
Colleges are seeking assurance that adult education budget (AEB), study programme, apprenticeship and other Department for Education/Education and Skills Funding Agency income, wherever possible, will be guaranteed for the coming months.
Emergency financial support
The AoC is asking the government to provide simple, rapid and clear routes for colleges to be able to seek and secure cashflow support. Colleges with low cash balances, large student fee income or employer-funded training will be at particular risk.
In the absence of an instruction from the government for all colleges to close, college leaders are seeking assurance that they will be supported in any local decisions to close a college or a campus which are taken in the light of the circumstances. These will include high numbers of staff in social isolation or in vulnerable categories who require social distancing; or outbreaks of the virus amongst staff and/or students; advice from Public Health England and so on. Given the nature of colleges, any temporary closures are likely to be time-limited and partial.
The decision by Ofsted to suspend all inspections is welcome, and should be followed swiftly by assurances that data, performance tables, targets and the like will also be suspended for the next few months.