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Economy Minister welcomes the broader return of learners in NI

Economy Minister Diane Dodds with staff from Impact Training in Belfast. (L-R) Dennis Murray, Sharon Burns, Ian Jamison and Gary McKay

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has welcomed the broader return of learners to further education college campuses and training provider premises.

The Minister joined students today at Northern Regional College and training provider Impact Training as they returned to face to face education at their provider premises for the first time since it ceased in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister said: “I am delighted to welcome learners back to face to face learning. I am sure that both learners and staff alike have been looking forward to returning to on-site activities.

“I know that despite the desire to return, there will be some who are anxious about resuming on-site activities. I want to reassure them that all of the Colleges and training providers have put in place extensive measures to ensure that they are as safe as possible.”

Acknowledging that educational provision has not entirely returned to normal, the Minister said:

“While all learners will have the opportunity to resume face to face education in a regular and structured way, ongoing restrictions due to the pandemic mean that the delivery of many courses will involve a blend of face to face and virtual learning methods going forward.

“Colleges and training providers are committed to making every effort to assist learners to adjust to the new way of working, and are confident that this will not diminish the quality of the student learning experience or the learners’ ability to succeed and flourish.”

Economy Minister Diane Dodds speaks to beauty student Chloe McDowell at Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey Campus

Over the summer months, colleges and non-statutory training providers have undertaken a phased approach to the resumption of certain activities, in order to prepare the way for learners’ wider return.

This included learners attending to complete adaptive assessments during July and August, staff returning to prepare the buildings and training facilities, the return of students to work placements and, from 17 August, colleges and non-statutory training providers have been able to resume face-to-face delivery of training as part of the Department’s ApprenticeshipsNI and Training for Success programmes.

The latest and last phase of this resumption means that, as of yesterday, all learners will be able to resume on-site learning at FE Colleges and training provider premises subject to the necessary assurances being received.

The Minister concluded by taking the opportunity to thank both learners and staff for their patience and work over the last number of months.

She said: “This has been a challenging time for learners and staff alike. I appreciate the hard work and dedication of all of the FE College and training provider staff over the last number of months, and also the hard work that will be put in going forward to enable on-site education to continue in a safe and productive way.”

The Framework for the Safe Resumption of On-Site Educational Provision and Related Activity is available online at:

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