The NEU has worked with the other unions and the employers' bodies in the FE sector (AoC) and Sixth Form college sector (SFCA) to update our guidance on the safe opening of colleges following the government's ambition to seek full opening of high-quality education in September. See DfE's  September Guidance.

Please read this advice alongside the NEU’s main advice on coronavirus along with the joint AOC/unions planning guide for colleges.

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 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 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 to open colleges in September.

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%.” The furlough scheme is being phased out in October and employer contributions are expected to increase as we move through the year. However, it is still in place and members should continue to receive support from their employer.

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. The latest information is here.

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 now?

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