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Dodds announces the return of more learners to further education colleges


More learners in further education colleges can return to onsite learning from next week, Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced today.


Learners on further education courses will be able to resume face-to-face learning in subject areas which require practical ‘hands-on’ training, such as electrical installation, joinery, catering and sports studies.


Alongside the implementation of public health guidance to minimise the risk of Covid-19, further education colleges and training providers are introducing testing for Covid-19 for staff and students using Lateral Flow Devices as part of the Department of Health’s NI SMART programme for asymptomatic testing.


The Department is also working with non-statutory training providers to establish testing procedures that will support an early return of learners to those settings.


Economy Minister Diane Dodds said:


“I am pleased to announce today that more learners in a range of practical face-to-face subjects can resume onsite learning at FE colleges. This follows the resumption on Monday of onsite learning for those in close contact subjects.


“This is an important and positive step forward which will enable more than 16,800 learners to receive the training they need to complete practical work and assessments.


“I would like to thank the colleges and training providers, as well as officials in my Department, the Department of Health, and the Department of Health and Social Care, for the hard work they have undertaken in a short period of time to get us to this position.


“I will continue to do all I can to further progress the safe resumption of onsite learning as quickly as possible.”


Colleges will be required to carry out site-specific risk assessments and adhere to the guidance on safe resumption of onsite learning in the Department’s Framework Document, developed in line with public health advice.


Lateral Flow testing will be available across campus locations, to commence next week.


Health Minister Robin Swann said:


“I welcome the announcement of this resumption of some onsite learning at FE colleagues. This is a further example of partnership working between government and providers. Breaking the chain of Covid-19 transmission is critical to our battle with the pandemic as we continue to take cautious and incremental steps forward. Used in conjunction with handwashing, maintaining social distancing and using face masks, Lateral Flow asymptomatic testing can make a real difference.”


The colleges will welcome back learners in practical subject areas on the following dates:


  • North West Regional College – 5 May

  • South Eastern Regional College – 6 May

  • Belfast Met – 10 May

  • South West College – 10 May

  • Southern Regional College – 10 May

  • Northern Regional College – 10 May


The Framework Document containing guidance for FE colleges on safe resumption of training is available at:


https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/publications/framework-safe-resumption-site-educational-provision-and-related-activity

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