Coronavirus (COVID-19) Legal Consequences of Closing a College: Staffing and Student Provision

The Government has issued detailed guidance for further education providers on maintaining education and skills training provision. Key points to note are as follows

Colleges and other providers ceased most of their classroom delivery operations from Monday 23 March 2020, however to date have not been asked to stop all face-to-face delivery. While many operations have moved online to “virtual classrooms”, colleges are able to allow certain students to attend, specifically:

  • Dependents of those listed on the Government’s critical worker list
  • Vulnerable children and young people. Such individuals include “those who have a social worker and those children and young people up to the age of 25 with education, health and care plans (“EHCP”)”.

Any students that fall outside of these two groups are asked to remain at home with “appropriate care”. It must be noted however, that wherever possible students with EHCPs should be supported at home unless they would be at significant risk. Colleges must carry out risk assessments in order to establish which students fall into the vulnerable category and so must attend college (though noting that this number is predicted to be very low).

Another key point to note is that some colleges are being asked to maintain provision for vulnerable learners and children of critical workers over the holidays. This involves regular communication with social workers, vulnerable learners and their families (remotely where needed) to provide support. Special post-16 institutions and residential providers may also be required to keep provision open through the holidays to provide necessary support, however this is to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Such requirements have a heavy financial burden for colleges, however the ESFA has confirmed that it will adopt a flexible approach to support grant-funded providers. Further information is expected in the coming weeks on how future funding will be calculated and the impact of COVID-19 on budgets, stemming from requests by the Association of Colleges for further information.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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