Coronavirus (COVID-19) | FW Solutions

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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

May 2021 Update

The  Prime Minister announced that the country will move to Step 3 of the roadmap on Monday 17 May.

Travel within Britain with overnight stays will be permitted, which means that schools will be able to organise trips with overnight stays from Monday 17 May. Remaining university students will also be able to return to in-person teaching, where they can access twice weekly asymptomatic testing.

Please see the following guidance to reflect these changes:

·       early years and childcare providers

·       schools guidance

·       special schools and other specialist settings

·       further education colleges and providers

·       higher education providers

·       protective measures for holiday or after-school clubs and other out-of-school settings

Please see the guidance on the COVID-19 response – Spring 2021 (Roadmap) for additional information.

March 2021 Update

From 30 March, the rules on social contact, business and activities, and travel are changing as part of the coronavirus (COVID-19) roadmap.

Outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the rule of 6) or 2 households will be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports. All children will be able to access any outdoor childcare and supervised activities. Parent and child groups, for the benefit of children aged under five years, can also take place outdoors with a limit of 15 attendees (children under five years of age and group facilitators do not count towards the attendee limit). Parent and child groups must be organised by a business, a charitable organisation or a public body.

The ‘stay at home’ rule will end, but many restrictions will remain in place.

Please see the guidance on the COVID-19 response – Spring 2021 (Roadmap) for further information.

February 2021 Update 

PM Boris Johnson has announced the government’s roadmap to cautiously ease lockdown restrictions in England.

The Government has published a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and provide a route back to a more normal way of life. Each step to be assessed against four tests before restrictions ease, starting with the return of schools on 8 March. The changes do not affect the Early Years sector.

The full update can be read here

January 2021 Update

On Tuesday 5 January 2021 England moved back into full national lockdown with a stay at home order for all but essential reasons. Click here for government guidance.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 4 January 2021 confirming a new national lockdown, training providers, employers and EPAOs must ensure that training and assessment takes place remotely wherever possible.

The apprenticeships coronavirus guidance was updated on 8 January 2021.

Face-to-face training and assessment can continue in colleges and training providers’ premises for vulnerable young apprentices and the children of key workers who need it. Face-to-face training and assessment can also continue in employers’ COVID-secure settings where it is essential for workers to attend their workplace, and where it is safe and practical to do so.

End-point assessment (EPA) and Functional Skills (FSQ) assessments can continue in colleges, training providers’ premises, assessment venues and workplaces where it cannot be conducted remotely and where providers and end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) judge it right to do so.

Training and assessment in the workplace and educational settings for vulnerable young apprentices and the children of key workers

Face-to-face training and assessment (including FSQ assessment) can continue in colleges, training providers’ premises and assessment venues for vulnerable young apprentices and the children of key workers who need it (as defined within the critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings guidance). The definition of vulnerable young apprentices includes those 16 to 18 year-olds who may have difficulty engaging with remote training and assessment at home (for example due to a lack of devices, connectivity or quiet space to study).

Apprentices due to undertake End Point Assessment and Functional Skills (maths and English) assessment

Wherever possible EPA and FSQ assessment must be conducted remotely. Where face-to-face EPA and FSQ assessment is undertaken remotely it must be in line with the Institute for Apprenticeships guidance on the delivery of assessment. Where this is not possible, face-to-face EPA and FSQ assessments can continue in colleges, training providers’ premises, assessment venues and workplaces, where providers and EPAOs judge it right to do so. The guidance on delivering exams within the Further Education (FE) national restrictions must be followed where EPA continues onsite.

Apprentices in the workplace

Apprentices should only attend workplaces where they cannot work from home and it is essential for them to do so. Where it is essential for workers to attend their workplace, apprenticeship training and assessment can be delivered in the workplace where that workplace meets ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines on ensuring the workplace is safe.

Changing apprenticeship learning arrangements

As far as it is possible and practicable to do so, employers and training and assessment providers must make use of distance-learning and assessment tools and techniques. This will enable apprentices to continue learning and assessment and complete their apprenticeships. Where it is not possible to continue training, the apprentice, employer and provider should agree to institute a break in learning and resume training when it is possible to do so. Providers and employers should remain in contact with their contracted EPAO to ensure clarity on any changes to expected gateway and assessment dates.

FW SOLUTIONS’ REMOTE OFFER

This information is to explain what to expect of FW Solutions if our learners need to self-isolate or lockdown restrictions require them to remain at home. This information explains:

· what remote education is available for apprentices of FW Solutions

· delivery arrangements, such as timetabling, virtual learning environments and assessment arrangements

· expectations of students

· support for students without devices, connectivity or a suitable environment for learning

· support for students with SEND

Remote learning isn’t new to apprenticeships and FW Solutions has been using online systems (such as our e-portfolio system and virtual learning environment) to deliver apprenticeships for years. We blend a mix of in-person visits with remote support to deliver high-quality, consistent learning to apprentices.

Your tutor will conduct remote visits flexibly, at a time to suit you and your employer and using a platform with which you are comfortable. Examples of remote platforms are Zoom, Microsoft Teams (these are the two preferable platforms), WhatsApp and telephone. You will continue to use the online resources in your Learner Hub and VQ Manager, your e-portfolio system. You will also find many additional resources, support, guidance and group teaching sessions on our learner Facebook page (please request membership through your Learner Hub).

We expect you to meet with your tutor at least once per month for a virtual teaching session lasting up to two hours. You will be prepared for this lesson and if you are at home, you will conduct yourself as if you are in the workplace – professionally and courteously. You are expected to carry out at least the planned number of Off the Job Hours for that month, but that can be increased if you are working from home or not at work due to furlough etc. Using this time to complete assignments and theory work will prepare you to put the new knowledge in to practice when you return to work.

Some apprentices may find they have less time as they are busy at work, for example in a nursery. Your tutor will work with you and your manager to make sure you have time for lessons and continue learning.

If you take part in group virtual lessons, you will be polite and courteous to your fellow learners and not disrupt the lesson in any way. Please refer to your learner handbook for the full Code of Conduct for Learners.

Support for Students without devices or connectivity

FW Solutions has a technology library at the disposal of learners that do not have access to devices to take part in online lessons and we will work with you and your employer to make arrangements for you. Please ask your tutor or call Head Office 01423 536672 to discuss this with us.

Information on Functional Skills support and testing at FW Solutions

We are working closely with Ofqual and our awarding organisations Pearson and NCFE to make sure learners are supported with Functional Skills maths, English and ICT during this uncertain time. We understand these are difficult times and there are many challenges ahead and we are doing all we can to keep updated and put measures in place in accordance with health and safety guidelines to help you progress and achieve your Functional Skills.

Under normal circumstances invigilation of Functional Skills tests must be conducted face-to-face within the centre or workplace. However, if this is not possible due to COVID 19 restrictions, you can request an exception to this rule and make use of video conferencing software.

Video conferencing software such as Teams, Zoom, Google Meet etc can be used to remotely invigilate an onscreen Functional Skills English or maths test. This is an interim solution to facilitate remote invigilation enabling learners to complete their Functional Skills and progress while we develop a longer-term solution. The following link contains all the Pearson Guidance for Learners

Where outstanding Functional Skills qualifications are a barrier to completing an apprenticeship Framework or Standard and they cannot be completed remotely, for example due to a lack of the correct technology, we will risk assess your workplace arrangements and 1:1 tests will take place where it is possible and following the Further education guidance for restricting attendance during the national lockdown

Support for students with SEND

The SEND strategy outlines FW Solutions’ strategy for supporting young learners (aged 16-25) and adults with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) within our Further Education and Apprenticeship provision. We are continuing to support our learners with SEND and will undertake a risk assessment where needed to establish the individual needs of each learner that may already have an Education Health and Care plan (EHC). We will continue to take steps to include the local authority and parents or carers during the risk assessment and assess their needs accordingly.

Here at FW Solutions, we are continuing to support our learners with needs such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia or Dysgraphia and ensuring they are able to learn remotely and they can access their resources online and to maintain their learning in whatever format is most appropriate to them and their additional needs. We will continue checking their computer literacy and offering support or resources that may be useful, step by step guides, arranging video calls on a suitable format i.e., Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp etc to discuss the work they have completed if writing or typing their work is challenging at this time. We are also encouraging family members to support and read with learners where possible.

If you would like any further information or support regarding Special Educational Needs or Disabilities, please contact our SENCO Jane Unwin: j.unwin@fwsolutions.net

Supporting the wellbeing and mental health of our learners and employees

The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic are far-reaching. The social distancing rules, disruption to family routine, financial insecurity, and health fears have put a huge strain on most people’s ability to cope in stressful situations. Whatever your situation, it is important to look at what you can do to limit the toll on your mental health and wellbeing.

FW Solutions are committed to supporting the wellbeing of our learners and staff so that they can continue to achieve their work and learning objectives during this difficult and uncertain time. Tutors continue one to one support and guidance and learners are also encouraged to visit the websites on our IAG (Information, Advice and Guidance) page where they can access resources to help to them look after their mental health and wellbeing. We have introduced a range of initiatives to support the mental health and wellbeing of our staff and learners and these can be found in our Wellbeing During COVID-19 strategy.

Safeguarding during COVID-19

FW Solutions is committed to maintaining the highest possible standards to meet its social, moral and legal responsibilities to safeguard the welfare of every child/young person, vulnerable adult or learner regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality or religion and to ensure they feel safe, secure and are listened to.

Key Information

We provide our learners with opportunities throughout their apprenticeship or learning programme to develop the skills they need to stay safe, healthy and recognise and respond to abuse and harmful behaviours. During this uncertain time, we have a blended approach of online learning coupled with workplace visits where learners have safely returned to work and cannot work from home. When learning remotely via online platforms, including Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp your e-safety is paramount. All our learners are receiving welfare calls to ensure their safety and wellbeing.

It is important for our learners and staff to ensure they are safe online. Spending time online comes with risks and we encourage our learners to recognise cyber bullying, grooming, radicalisation and trolling and how to increase their online security and reduce these risks to their safety. We are committed to ensuring overuse of social media and over exposure to the news around COVID-19 does not impact on mental health and wellbeing. Please click here for the government guidance on staying safe online.

FW Solutions’ employees recognise that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility irrespective of their role. Whatever your current situation other people should not:

· Hurt or abuse you in any way

· Threaten to hurt or abuse you

If you wish to share information with FW Solutions’ staff members, please note: if the staff member feels that what you tell them puts you or any other young person at risk of harm; they will have to pass it on to the designated person who may have to take it further to support you or others and keep everyone safe. This is in accordance with our safeguarding referral procedure. They will only tell those who need to know.

FW Solutions continues to follow our Safeguarding policy and procedures (which can be found here) and the DfE guidance on safeguarding learners during COVID-19

For a summary of the NSPCC guidance, advice and support for children, parents/carers and professionals please click here

We are committed to ensuring learners know who to contact if they are worried or have any concerns about their safety and wellbeing.

Any concerns relating to the welfare of a learner should be directed to our Designated Safeguarding Lead, Nicola Balmforth – n.balmforth@fwsolutions.net

Disruption to assessment

To maintain progress, achievement and delivery of EPA, the Institute for Apprenticeships have introduced flexibilities and discretions to assessment plans. These have and will continue to enable apprentices to complete their apprenticeship in the event of disruption to assessment.

All EPA flexibilities and discretions put in place due to coronavirus (COVID-19) will be extended until at least 31 August 2021.

The Institute for Apprenticeships will continue to update all coronavirus (COVID-19) related guidance to reflect the evolving situation and advice. FW Solutions will continue to regularly refer to their guidance to check for updated information in light of the ever changing coronavirus situation.

Disruption to employment – Furlough and Redundancy

Where apprentices are on furlough, they are permitted to continue with their training remotely; please refer to our remote delivery statement above.

Apprentices on furlough

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) allows employers to claim for 80% of furloughed employees’ (employees on a leave of absence) usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 April 2021. Information about the extension can be found in the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme guidance

When an employee is on furlough they can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for or on behalf of the employer. Training in this context includes apprenticeship off-the-job training.

Where a training provider can continue to deliver training remotely, a furloughed apprentice can continue their apprenticeship whilst furloughed.

Where training is undertaken by workers on furlough, at the request of their employer, workers are entitled to be paid at least the appropriate minimum wage for this time. In most cases, the furlough payment of 80% of a worker’s wage, up to the value of £2,500, will provide sufficient monies to cover these training hours.

For additional information on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme please consult HMRC’s guidance

Redundant Apprentices

Where apprentices are made redundant, FW Solutions will be supported by the ESFA to help the apprentice find alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks as far as is reasonably possible.

The Government’s existing policy on enabling redundant apprentices to complete their apprenticeship has been extended to also fund all apprentices to completion who are at least 75% of their way through their apprenticeship at the point of redundancy on or after 15 October 2020.

Apprentices who have been made redundant, or who are at risk of redundancy, can access online and telephone support through the Redundancy Support Service for Apprentices. The new service provides clear, accessible advice and guidance to individuals on the impact of redundancy, their options and next steps. It also helps apprentices to identify new apprenticeship and employment opportunities, and, where they are eligible, complete their current apprenticeship.

Apprentices that have been made redundant or think they might be made redundant in the future, can visit Facing redundancy during your apprenticeship for more information. This includes the option of registering for our new vacancy sharing service which will alert redundant apprentices to employers offering new apprenticeship opportunities in their area.

Universal Credit for apprentices

To further support redundant apprentices, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has advised that where an apprentice has been made redundant but is continuing their apprenticeship study, they can claim Universal Credit (UC) as long as they satisfy all eligibility criteria. In most cases this will include being 18 or over and undertaking work related activity – i.e., being available and looking for work and doing this alongside their study. Where study is work related this may be accepted as work preparation activity and other expectations reduced accordingly. More information on eligibility criteria can be found on the Universal Credit page on GOV.uk.

Employers

Where the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak results in loss of income, employers should consider their eligibility and apply for the wide range of financial support that HM Treasury has already announced for businesses. Full details of this substantial package of support can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses.

Employers who would like to recruit a redundant apprentice or offer new apprenticeship opportunities, should visit Hiring an apprentice. Those apprentices that have been made redundant may already have the valuable skills and experience that organisations need.

There are a range of FAQs for employers available in the ESFA Guidance.

If an apprentice is sick due to COVID-19 and/or is unable to do any learning for four consecutive weeks or longer, we can arrange for them to have a break in learning.

All learning that apprentices take part in will be logged in their Off the Job Training log and will count towards their total time at the end of the apprenticeship. We will continue to review progress every 8 weeks and involve you, the employer, in the feedback and progress meeting remotely.

Note that FW Solutions are enrolling new apprentices via remote enrolment and apprentices can begin their training immediately via online learning.

Please contact Rebecca Warden – r.warden@fwsolutions.net if you wish to advertise for or enrol an apprentice.

The Government have combined all guidance for Education and Childcare onto one page to enable teachers, school leaders, carers, parents and students to find all up to date guidance relating to COVID 19.

We ask that all employers of apprentices ensure they have followed the HSE guidelines before requesting apprentices to return to work and displaying the ‘Staying COVID-19 Secure’ poster once risk assessments have been completed.

Your apprentices will continue learning via online study platforms where it is not yet safe for a face to face visit. Contact us if you wish to discuss your apprentices safe return to learning. All learners and apprentices can continue with their apprenticeship or programme of study via our flexible learning delivery methods and e-portfolio.

Previous guidance – November 2020:

The COVID-19 Winter Plan confirms that:

· education settings will remain open in all tiers.

· the DfE will update guidance to reflect how settings should operate under the strengthened tier system.

· an updated contingency framework in the exceptional circumstances under which further restrictions on education are required in any area.

· the Government will pilot further rapid testing in colleges and universities, deploying rapid testing for specific one-off events. You can consult the full Covid-19 Winter Plan here.