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Coronavirus Update for Customers

16th March 2020 Date of publication

Last updated 16th March 2020

At One Awards and the wider NOCN Group we will endeavour to minimise the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on our support for training centres, test centres and learners, whilst following the advice from Public health England and the Department of Education.

We will remain open with a contingency plan in place for working remotely if required. Daily updates will be provided and plans implemented for differing scenarios to minimise disruption to quality assurance and assessment processes. If you have any concerns or would like to discuss the impact on your centre or learners please contact us directly on admin@oneawards.org.uk or 0191 518 550.

Functional Skills

At this time NOCN has no plans to make any changes to the services and support provided for Functional Skills Qualifications, and we are monitoring the situation on a daily basis.

NOCN advises centres and students to prepare for external assessments as is their usual practice.

If your centre is required to close down, please contact us with the following:

1. Confirm your decision to close your centre and include date of closure and expected date of re-open (if known)
2. Confirm details of booked assessments, time and venues for suspension of booking
3. Confirm when your centre re-opens
4. When appropriate, inform NOCN of your continuation of assessments.

If One Awards and wider NOCN Group offices are closed down, the majority of the business will continue as normal, remotely, but external assessments may be impacted.

In this event, please contact One Awards with the numbers of assessments impacted, and we will confirm the measures which need to be implemented.

Our Centre Support Team is contactable via 0191 518 6550, or the following emails:

Stephen Collinson Stephen.Collinson@oneawards.org.uk or cst@oneawards.org.uk  

Elizabeth Pawlowski elizabeth.pawlowski@nocn.org.uk

Kelly-Ann Wickens Kelly-Ann.Wickens@nocn.org.uk

End Point Assessment

NOCN will work with you to ensure that the majority of End Points Assessments will see little effect of COVID-19. Those most likely to be affected will be standards with face to face delivery models. In these instances, NOCN will work with providers and employers to understand the restrictions in force where End Point Assessments are either planned or mid delivery.

NOCN will ensure that a pragmatic risk-based response to limitations on EPA delivery is taken, at the guidance of PHE, DfE, ESFA and IfATE.

If you have any problems or concerns, please contact NOCN’s End point assessment team on 0300 999 1177 (Option 1) or endpointassessment@nocn.org.uk

International

Our team will continue to work with and support all International Centres and Partners. Although business travel has been suspended, we will use video conferencing and technology to maintain dialogue. For further information please contact us on: international@nocn.org.uk

General Background

The Government has published a number of updates on the risk to the general public of the Coronavirus.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

Latest Update 16th March

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has outlined the UK Government’s plan for managing the Coronavirus threat in four sections: ‘contain, delay, research and mitigate’, reflecting World Health Organisation guidelines.

The Government announced on 12th March that we have moved from the ‘contain’ stage to the second ‘delay’ phase of the government’s response.

Initially this is focused on self-isolation for people with mild flu-like symptoms, by staying at home for 7 days with a minimal contact with others as possible.

The COBRA committee is meeting again today (16th March) and is expected to introduce further ‘social distancing’ measures intended to reduce the transmission of the virus, such as reducing large scale gatherings, more home-working and asking older and more vulnerable people to self-isolate.

Good hygiene guidelines will continue to be important, including regular hand washing and use of tissues to catch sneezes and coughs.

Guidance for employers, employees and businesses

Employers and businesses have been given advice about protecting their workforce, and what to do if a case of coronavirus is identified. Whilst home working may be encouraged in the coming weeks, this is not currently recommended.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

Guidance for Educational settings

Guidance for educational settings has also been updated. To date schools and colleges remain open, but advice is changing daily.and-businesses-about-covid-19.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19/guidance-to-educational-settings-about-covid-19

Impact on Apprenticeships

In order to support the sector during any disruption which may be experienced due to Covid-19 these are the initial recommendations from the Department for Education:

1. Apprentices who are ready for assessment – i.e. who reach gateway and cannot be assessed due to assessor illness or Covid-19 related measures, will be allowed to have a break in learning. This should protect funding and completion of apprenticeships and should be reflected in the July completion rules. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks. A break in learning must occur before the learner is recorded as completed. Apprentices can go on a break in learning between completing the learning activity (learning actual end date) and the assessment, but there would be no requirement to record in this in the ILR as it will not have an effect on funding.
2. Apprentices who experience gaps in training due to Covid-19 related illness in the workplace or off the job can classify this period as a break in learning. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks.
3. Usually, breaks in learning are only permitted where they are learner driven, however we are aware that there may be occasion where an employer who is following government advice may take action that results in an apprenticeship have to be paused. In these occasions a break in learning can be used where there will be a break of longer than 4 weeks. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed.
4. In order to maintain the integrity of high quality assessment of apprenticeships we are going to monitor the situation and will issue further advice and modifications relating to specific assessment methods if necessary.
5. We advise adhering to the current escalation process of raising EPA (end-point assessment) issues through EQAPs (external quality assurance providers) in the first instance.

There is a need for everyone (employer, provider, EPAO, Apprentice) to take a reasonable and balanced approach in these situations and to recognise that the health and wellbeing of individuals is a higher priority than performance measures.

We know that good communications between each of these parties is important to the successful delivery of EPA anyway. So, in these circumstances that communication becomes even more important.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) will shortly be publishing guidance for this area in response to potential disruption from Covid-19.

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