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Covid-19 Sector News Round-Up

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In our bi-monthly news blog, we look at how the apprenticeship and training sector has been affected by the coronavirus crisis. This month, apprenticeships minister says online delivery is the solution for ITPs; university bailout rejected and the pros and cons of online learning delivery.

Apprenticeship providers should switch to online delivery, says Apprenticeships Minister Gillian Keegan

The Department for Education confirmed last week that most of the apprenticeship sector will get no new funding above and beyond what has already been offered to businesses, and further, that it expects training providers to move to 100% remote delivery.

Speaking at an online Q&A organised by FE Week, Gillian Keegan, Apprenticeship and Skills Minister, said that it would be unfair to offer apprenticeship training providers more than other business sectors.

Keegan began by thanking the sector and acknowledging how hard everyone was working, and the speed of change needed to respond to the pandemic. The government’s priority, she said, was to keep people studying and learning and to award qualifications, even if this couldn’t be done in the usual way. They also wanted new starts signed up.

When questioned about the government’s additional supplier relief support to the sector, for which levy-payers would not be eligible, she said while some businesses had lost 100% of their income during the pandemic, the training sector was not really in that position:

There is a way to continue to earn money if you can continue to deliver the services online to apprentices, and the number one goal we have is for everyone to do that as far as is physically, or in this case virtually, possible. There is some extra relief that has been afforded to this sector, that hasn’t been afforded to other sectors, and in a way, this sector can also earn in a virtual way…much more than a lot of other businesses…

“They can access 100% of revenue if they can deliver 100% online…the right incentive is that this sector is paid exactly as it was because it switches its training to online.”

Universities request for multibillion bailout knocked back by ministers

UK universities request for a multibillion-pound bailout to help them get through the coronavirus bailout has been refused by universities minister, Michelle Donelan.

However, £2.6 billion in tuition fees and £100 million in research funding will be paid early, and universities can continue to charge full tuition fees to students…providing they are offering high-quality online learning.

The government has made it clear that educational institutions are expected to adjust to online delivery to provide continuity of learning delivery and business sustainability.

As we reported two weeks ago, universities are facing losses in income from the collapse of the international student market, a fall in research income and loss of revenue from conferences and accommodation.

Online learning should be more than crisis management, say researchers

Writing in The Conservation, two university researchers have said that the adoption of online learning should be more than a reflex response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While there have been many positive experiences of online learning, particularly from institutions that already have an online delivery infrastructure, others have struggled to pivot quickly.

They suggest four best practice takeaways for institutions struggling to make it work: training for staff, collaborative working with EdTech companies, sharing resources with other institutions and understanding the pedagogic potential of online learning – rather than seeing it as ‘second-best’.

Digital infrastructure an issue for online learning

In countries like the UK, digital infrastructure remains an issue for online delivery. While 95% of homes can access superfast broadband, currently only 54% do, according to Ofcom’s latest figures. However, some rural areas (around 0.5% of UK properties) are unable to access wifi broadband services. Mobile services are also patchy, with only 62% of rural areas receiving good 4G services from four mobile operators compared to 95% of urban areas.

The ONS also estimates, based on 2018 figures, that around 20% of the population – over 10 million people – have few, or no, digital skills. Twelve percent of those between the ages of 11 and 18 have no access to a computer or tablet. Around 80% of UK adults and 100% of 16 to 24-year-olds do own a smartphone through which online learning can be delivered.

While digital access is improving, making the most of online learning delivery – and the benefits it brings for the UK’s digital skills – needs urgent investment in the nation’s digital infrastructure.

Remote delivery with Aptem – watch the video

Click here to learn how Aptem enables every element from onboarding onwards to be undertaken remotely. It provides the support and tools you need to quickly transition and deliver quality training online.

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