The UK Government confirmed yesterday that it is remaining in the “containment stage” of its response to the coronavirus. Measures to delay the spread of the virus i.e. “social distancing” will not be introduced yet.
Notwithstanding that, a number of members have raised issues about this including; the need to work intensively with learners to allay their fears, the financial implications of a protracted pandemic, the practical challenges that providers (particularly those delivering work-based learning support) might face in engaging and supporting learners.
Clearly, as we have seen in other countries and Italy in particular, the number of cases that are reported in the UK is likely to increase significantly and will have an impact on learning providers and their ability to deliver learning programmes.
GMLPF is liaising with DfE, the Combined Authority and Ofsted to obtain and then disseminate any updates that they may have. These will be circulated as and when they are published. In the meantime, members should follow national updates by visiting this site which has some very practical information on the virus, how to delay it and what to do if anybody develops an illness as a result of contracting the virus. The guidance is largely focused on public health messages, in line with Public Health England’s core guidance.
Coronavirus break in learning guidance
DfE yesterday published some interim guidance that will allow apprentices to have a break in learning if they cannot be assessed due to the coronavirus. At the moment this only applies to apprentices who have reached the gateway and those who have gaps in learning due to coronavirus. A break in learning will apply where there has been a break of four weeks or more. The DfE guidance is set out below:
- Apprentices who are ready for assessment – i.e. who reach gateway and cannot be assessed due to assessor illness or Covid-19 related measures, will be allowed to have a break in learning. This should protect funding and completion of apprenticeships and should be reflected in the July completion rules. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks. A break in learning must occur before the learner is recorded as completed. Apprentices can go on a break in learning between completing the learning activity (learning actual end date) and the assessment, but there would be no requirement to record in this in the ILR as it will not have an effect on funding.
- Apprentices who experience gaps in training due to Covid-19 related illness in the workplace or off the job can classify this period as a break in learning. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks.
- Usually, breaks in learning are only permitted where they are learner-driven, however, we are aware that there may be occasion where an employer who is following government advice may take action that results in an apprenticeship have to be paused. In these occasions, a break in learning can be used where there will be a break of longer than 4 weeks. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed.
- DfE advises adhering to the current escalation process of raising EPA (end-point assessment) issues through EQAPs (external quality assurance providers) in the first instance.
DfE emphasised that there “is a need for everyone (employer, provider, EPAO, Apprentice) to take a reasonable and balanced approach in these situations and to recognise that the health and wellbeing of individuals is a higher priority than performance measures”.
It is understood that the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) will shortly be publishing guidance for this area in response to potential disruption from Covid-19.
If you have any queries or concerns please do contact us and we can raise this with authorities and other bodies such as AELP.
In the meantime, there may be merit in members revisiting and updating their Business Continuity Plans to help them identify levels of risk and put in place contingency measures to ensure that the risk of business disruption is minimised.
Risks, as they stand, include: staff contracting the illness and being unable to work or close family members contracting Covid-19 and the family having to self-isolate, learners developing symptoms and learning providers having to close temporarily to deep clean or close for a longer period, employers seeing sickness levels spike and being reluctant to release learners for OTJ training or in extreme cases not allow providers access to their premises. There is a risk that learners may take longer to complete their learning and that providers might not be able to recruit employers or learners to profile. Both of these have scenarios might impact on provider cash flow.
As part of their business continuity planning, members at this time might wish to explore the scope for making greater use of IT and remote delivery, home working etc to overcome some of the issues associated with coronavirus
Alongside this, there are clearly some practical measures that providers can take within their own organisations such as increasing the frequency of building cleaning and communal areas in particular, making available more cleaning products (liquid soaps in the absence of sanitising products), messaging to staff and learners etc