Please read this guidance alongside the NEU’s main advice on coronavirus

NEU continues to monitor government policy, the risk assessment sector guidance (below) and college behaviours (where necessary) with the joint trade unions and the AoC and DfE when relevant.

If you have any concerns regarding any of these areas of interest please contact us post16@neu.org.uk.

A joint statement about the testing has been agreed by organisations that include the NEU, the Association of Colleges and the Sixth Form Colleges Association.

The NEU agreed joint advice to help colleges prepare for full education from September and updated advice is being discussed with the other FE unions and the Association of Colleges.

Reps may also wish to refer to a checklist issued by the joint unions (GMB, NEU, UNISON and UNITE) for use from November 2020 onwards in schools and colleges.  It includes advice regarding vulnerable staff and that face coverings should be worn at all times, including in the classroom, by staff and students.

Updated actions for further education colleges and providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

DfE have updated guidance on actions for further education colleges and providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to include information on the national restrictions which came into force on 5 November.

We have included information on the appropriate use of face coverings and the measures that providers should take in the teaching and learning environment to ensure 2 metre social distancing."

Updated guidance on providing apprenticeships during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

DfE have also updated guidance on providing apprenticeships during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This includes information about the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the package of support available for those who have been made redundant on or after 15 October and guidance on the national restrictions that came into force on 5 November.

How is NEU supporting reps and members who are now no longer in direct contact with one another in the workplace?

If you are a rep in a sixth form college there is an established virtual network that you can join. If you are a rep and not part of this network, please contact robert.phillips@neu.org.uk. If you are a rep in a Further Education college there is a growing and vibrant What’s App group you can join. Please contact norman.crowther@neu.org.uk for more information.

Please organise regional meetings with your regional reps who are on the national council for Post 16 and your district committee post 16 placeholders.

There are regular national, post 16 zoom meetings and other meetings you can join online. Please subscribe to the activist networks for more and please subscribe to emails and SMS from NEU to hear of any future meetings.

What should we do to ensure we are consulted by our college management about new working arrangements?

While working practices such as rotas and timetables, methods of remote learning and support for learners will be different, changes should happen in consultation with NEU reps and members. Reps should ask to be consulted on all changes to working practices before they are implemented and to be part of arrangements for ongoing monitoring and review.  Reps must be included in all staff communications in order to avoid breakdowns in communications whilst working from home.  College managers should be asked to undertake, in consultation with reps, initiatives such as reviews of workload and work/life balance, stress surveys, and surveys on training needs relating to new working practices. The guidance (and Law) state that all health and safety reps be consulted whether in recognised or non-recognised workplaces.

Where can I find NEU advice on safe working when in college?

NEU advice on safe working on college premises is here.  Where colleges work with LAs and schools to develop shared sites of working, this NEU advice may be relevant. Please note this may be updated in line with government aims.

Where can I find guidance for distance teaching and safe working at home?

NEU has released guidance on distance learning and is working with post-16 stakeholders to ensure this is improved upon for every college. The AoC website contains advice on teaching and learning practice and supporting material which can be found here. We will continue to support members on issues around remote learning.

For advice on working safely at home, see our guidance here.

What is the position on furloughing staff in FE colleges?

Colleges are able to furlough staff if absolutely necessary.  Where they do so, the NEU believes that staff pay should be maintained at its normal level nor reduced to the 80% reimbursed by Government.  The joint statement by AoC, NEU and other unions says that “We think it is proper that colleges consider use of the scheme to furlough staff when it is clear there is no other funding for their role and no work for them to do. Colleges are undoubtedly concerned about the security of their public funding and the damage to their income generation but will always treat staff fairly, try to protect salaries and wherever possible top up the salaries of furloughed staff to 100%.” 

What happens if I am on a fixed term or zero-hour contract?

NEU expects employers to continue to employ workers on flexible and zero-hour contracts who would have continued to have been employed.  This is supported by Government advice.

All flexible or fixed term contracts should be honoured to the end of the academic year and in line with any further support from government.  For Government guidelines see the AoC Coronavirus Resource Hub and also see our general member FAQs for relevant advice. If your position comes under threat, contact the NEU Advice Line.

What is happening with vocational qualifications and apprenticeships during the crisis?

Consultations with awarding bodies and the Government is ongoing and there is need for further clarification, see here for more information. Currently, colleges have discretion to set examinations for BTEC students.

Our students need specific support around social distancing and motivation around learning – what's the advice?

To fully support SEND students, staff need further guidance, resources and different ways of working. NEU has produced specific advice for SEND settingsThe Government’s advice on social distancing is here.

How can I be protected from parental expectations around childcare, expected grades and student support?

To fully support learners’ staff will need further guidance, resources and different ways of working. NEU will work with stakeholders on this issue and has issued this advice.

Can the college demand I take my holidays?

NEU does not agree that staff should be asked to take their holidays involuntarily. Any proposals must be discussed with trade unions.  This is not the time for colleges to make blanket decisions around leave or anything else without full support from the trade unions. We all want to be part of the solution, not creating further divisions or problems. Of course, there may be reason for reviewing holiday periods, but this must not happen without consultation and agreement.

What other sources of information are available?

Information and guidance are changing rapidly at this time.  You can keep update with the latest information on post 16 education and training including assessment, safety protocols and support for the sector on our website here NEU Post 16.

You may also find the following links helpful:

Government Advice on COVID 19 for further education

Association of Colleges Resources for college staff

Education Support