The following agreed communication is issued on behalf of the FET Stakeholders following an engagement today, Thursday 8th April:
The Stakeholders working group met today April 8th, 2021, to discuss planning for the next stage of the phased return for learners in FET settings.
Youthreach and Community Training Centres will re-open for learners from April 12th, 2021 with full onsite delivery. In addition, small group tuition for vulnerable learners in community education, literacy and numeracy programmes at Levels 1-2 will also recommence form April 12th, 2021. Working with learners from homeless and addiction services will also re-commence from April 12th, 2021, as per the phased return of vulnerable learners.
Delivery of education within prisons will re-commence from April 19th, 2021 under the control of the Governor of the prison, as agreed with the Irish Prison Service. Teaching staff may access the Education Centres from Monday 12th April to undertake preparatory work, re-assess classroom capacities, assess student learning needs, and update timetables.
Other vulnerable learners requiring onsite presence to support wellbeing or access to workspace and Wi-Fi to complete course work can also be accommodated, bearing in mind the overall footfall of the FET centre/institution.
Schools of Music
The guidance issued by the Department for Children and Youth Affairs has been withdrawn and a new set of operating guidelines will be issued once confirmed by the Office of the Taoiseach (expected on the 9th of April). The Arts Council guidelines will now apply to commercial Music Schools. Music schools funded through ETBs or funded by the education sector will follow the Department for Children and Youth Affairs guidelines. The phased re-opening of this provision remains the focus of on-going discussion, and a sub-group of the forum has been formed to progress this. It is envisaged that further clarification will be available toward the end of next week. Emergency remote delivery will continue in the interim.
Outdoor Youth Work
Outdoor Youth Work will return from the April 26th, 2021 in pods of 15. Under previous Level 5 guidelines, six people indoors was allowed, this guideline has not been approved. 1 to 1 will return from April 12th, 2021 with groups of 15 allowed from April 26th, 2021.
The same process that has been used with the three previous groups of apprentices will continue with 453 apprentices comprehended in group four of the phase 2 classes for commencement of onsite training from April 12th 2021. SOLAS will remain in contact with ETBs with regard to this process.
Time-Critical Assessments Level 4-6
Having considered public health advice and the need to continue to limit attendance onsite, it was agreed by the Stakeholders group that learners at levels 4, 5 and 6 who are engaged in time-critical practical elements across the awards including QQI, City of Guilds, Junior and Senior Trade examinations will continue as part of the agreed process for a phased reopening. This is not a return to tuition, rather it is a return to facilitate instruction on specialist equipment required for the completion of time-critical practical elements and the completion of such time-critical practical elements. Learners will revert to emergency remote learning after those practical elements are completed. Onsite presence should be restricted to those engaged in time-critical practical elements only and is a subject to maintaining the minimum number of learners required onsite at any given time. It is not expected that the number of learners returning would exceed 5% on site at any one time.
The phased return to on-site activity for the completion of the time-critical practical elements will be subject to an agreed process where teacher/ tutor will engage with FET Centre Management.
· The teacher/ tutor will make an application to the FET Centre management outlining the rationale for onsite activity
· State the proposed time period for onsite activity
· State the number of learners involved
· Confirm space and equipment requirements
It may be the case that not all time-critical practicals can be facilitated at the same time. FET Centre Management will then endeavour to facilitate requests while ensuring onsite activity remains minimal. This may require that management prioritise some groups to return sooner (on or near March 15th, 2021) while deferring other groups to a later date for onsite activity, after the initial groups have completed their time-critical practical elements and returned to remote delivery.
Where agreement is not reached between a Teacher/Tutor and the FET Centre management, the request will be escalated to the Director of FET for resolution, if resolution cannot be achieved it will then be passed to the Stakeholders group for determination.
The FET overarching guidelines will continue to apply and further education and training institutions will continue to operate primarily online with the emergency remote learning remaining the primary mode of delivery for most activities with remote working encouraged where possible. All requests from staff to engage in on-site provision are to remain the subject of risk assessment, consultation and agreement with management.
All planned phased return will be carried out in a phased approach and in accordance with current Governmental COVID-19 Resilience & Recovery 2021 – The Path Ahead framework. All planning will be based on full adherence to the current national guidelines and health and safety regulations.
Given that FET is continuing online under Level 5 Restrictions and the very limited extent of onsite attendance (strictly limited to essential and time critical for course completion purposes which cannot be delivered online), it is expected that staff in the vulnerable category including the over 60's and pregnant staff continue to be prioritised for online activities.
This communication has also issued to the ETB sector this evening,