Colleges in Wales have announced they will stop face-to-face teaching. Their announcement followed a statement by Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams that schools will be closed from Friday.
Earlier this week, Colleges Scotland announced the country's FE institutions would move to online delivery – although in a number of cases, facilities such as libraries have remained open.
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A statement published by umbrella body ColegauCymru said colleges would take a phased approach to ending face-to-face delivery. The statement added that Easter holidays would continue as scheduled with colleges "taking local approaches to support ongoing learning".
Initial plans to reopen for online delivery only from Monday 20 April 2020 are currently being explored, FE leaders are taking all reasonable steps to ensure that staff and learners have access to adequate technology and are looking to safeguard and ensure that all learners remain engaged in their programmes of study."
Dafydd Evans, chair of ColegauCymru, said the health and wellbeing of learners and staff was the overriding concern and with increasing infection and self-isolation rates, it was important that all steps to contain the virus and limit social contact are taken.
"Colleges are mindful of the specific needs of vulnerable learners and will put in place a ‘safety net service’, which as far as possible will ensure those who need it most receive additional support. The organisation is also asking the Welsh minister to maintain the all-important payment of education maintenance allowance, despite the changes to provision."
ColegauCymru has today written to Kirsty Williams, calling on the minister to urge Qualifications Wales and other relevant regulators to work with all awarding bodies to commence preparations for a move towards teacher-graded assessment, with a priority on A2 and other graded courses that are vital to support learner progression.
ColegauCymru chief executive Iestyn Davies said: “Coronavirus raises a number of challenges. Naturally, our immediate and primary concern is for the health and wellbeing of learners and staff and colleges are taking all possible steps to protect this. Some learners will understandably have concerns about assessment, progression, and how this will be handled.”
“Likewise, colleges need to know how funding will be impacted in light of disruptions, for example, apprenticeship starts and completions, and a whole range of other areas.”
“We are looking to the Welsh government to provide reassurance to colleges to enable them to support not only learners and staff, but also those businesses and services in the supply chain that rely on the FE sector and that are likely to be badly affected by coronavirus. Further education colleges are anchor institutions in the heart of communities and are considering how they can best support the entire college ‘family’."