Version 1.0 - Last Updated: 22 Feb 2021
COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
How the COVID-19 pandemic affects student finance.
Questions from learning providers
Attendance confirmations and payments
Q1: As our learners are studying remotely, tutors are not marking registers in the conventional way. Such attendance is going to be difficult to track while we are working remotely. What should we do?
A: You must continue to use best endeavours to determine the learner’s engagement when you confirm attendance. You must also agree and record the ongoing course of action in the files of the learners.
If you cannot offer or track engagement, you should submit a suspension or withdrawal in the normal manner. It depends on the circumstances which you should use.
Q2: Will we still receive fee payments as normal?
A: We will make fee payments as normal. These will be in line with your positive attendance confirmations on the Learning Provider Portal for actual and assumed months of attendance. This applies to learners continuing to engage with your learning services.
You must still submit attendance confirmations. We expect you to have adequate business continuity plans in place. These should ensure your staff can process attendance confirmations if they're working remotely.
Q3: Is there any possibility of extending the fixed quarter attendance confirmation window to give us more time to submit? It will be challenging while we are working from home.
A: There is no planned change to the deadline dates for the fixed quarters. We understand that you will have planned for the scheduled payment dates. We are keen to avoid any disruption to your payments.
To ensure we can make payments as expected, you should confirm attendance for the relevant learners ahead of the drawdown date.
Delivery of learning aims
The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) provides guidance on learning aim delivery. The content here is based on their guidance.
Q1: Our premises are no longer open for learners to attend. What steps can we put in place to ensure our learners can continue their learning aims?
A: The Secretary of State for Education has advised of the cessation of classroom delivery for most learners. This is due to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are assuming that that you will continue with your study programme remotely where possible. This would usually mean using online learning.
Q2: Some programmes need a practical element of learning or assessment. What is the advice about continuing these programmes and how should we administer these?
A: The Department for Education (DfE) is working with the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) to see what flexibility and pragmatism can be applied to ensure these learners in AY 2020/21 are not disadvantaged.
The consultation on alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021 may be of particular interest to you. It may also interest you if you have learners expecting to get a vocational or technical qualification, or other general qualification in 2021.
Q3: We know loan-funded learners must complete their Level 3 Access to HE Diploma as well as their HE course to qualify for loan write-off. Some learners have received an offer from their preferred university stating that, in view of the current situation, their place is secure whether they complete or not. Will they still need to complete their Access to HE Diploma in this case?
A: The government and the Office for Students (OfS) recently issued a statement asking universities and colleges to pause:
- all unconditional offer-making
- changes to existing offers for applicants who have not yet received their A levels, BTECs or similar qualification results
As such, there are no changes to the rules around the Access to HE write-off.
You can find further information on the OfS website.
Q4: One of our courses is technically finishing early, as the learners have completed all their written work. The awarding organisation has advised that final completion will be based on predicted grades. This is because learners cannot attend classes or placements because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How should we administer these learners on the LP Portal?
A: You are entitled to the full fee amount if a learner leaves the learning aim before the expected end date and has completed the aim. In this scenario, you should submit an early completion CoC to let us know.
Learner applications and assessments
Q1: Some of our AY 2020/21 learners have yet to apply. Will you process their applications as usual?
A: We can accept applications up to the end date of a learner's course. Learners should continue to apply through the online application system on GOV.UK.
Q2: Will the COVID-19 pandemic delay the opening of the AY 2021/22 application system?
A: The AY 2021/22 application system is on track for a summer launch. We will announce the launch date in due course.
Q3: Are there any contingency plans for learners who have trouble submitting the necessary information or evidence?
A: Learners can now provide an electronic signature for AY 2020/21 applications.
Learners do not need to send evidence now if they’re not able to. Our priority is your safety and wellbeing, so please encourage them to stay at home. If learners send us evidence later than normal, we’ll make sure they do not lose out on their funding because of this. The changes made to the Applicant's Declaration of Identity Form (ADIF) process will also help to simplify the requirements on the learner.
Q4: Are you validating National Insurance and passport numbers within the usual timescales?
A: Yes, we are processing National Insurance and passport numbers within the usual turnaround times.
Q5: Will there be any change to your service for processing applications during this period?
A: We are processing applications as normal and hope to maintain service levels as closely as possible. The teams involved in processing learner applications are working remotely. They are also supported by a small additional team of critical office-based staff.
Q1: We are aware that the planned seminars for May 2020 were cancelled. Are there any further events planned that we should be aware of?
A: We are planning a series of Learning Provider Portal training events for delivery in the coming months. Further details will soon be available on our Events page, so please look out for updates.
We will also let you know as and when we can schedule our other events, such as seminars and future service review forums.
In the meantime, you can view the slides from our recent forums in the Events section of this website.
The Department for Education (DfE) has also published further guidance for colleges and training providers.
Communications with learners
Q1: What are you telling learners?
A: You can find our latest guidance to learners on GOV.UK. We are developing and maintaining parallel FAQs and will use our online and social media channels to inform learners.
Ofqual consultation on awarding vocational and technical qualifications
Q: We have many learners on vocational and technical courses that are due to finish. Practical assessments still need to be completed. What is the outcome of the consultation on the assessment and grading of these qualifications?
A: Ofqual published the consultation decision on the assessment and grading of vocational, technical and other general qualifications on 22 May 2020.
In summary, they have set out an extraordinary framework to permit approaches to issuing results that are not normally permitted.
Depending on the qualification, learners will receive a calculated result. Where this is not possible or appropriate, awarding organisations can offer adapted assessments. If neither of these options are possible, awarding organisations can delay assessments.
Out of scope qualifications regulated by Ofqual will continue to be subject to the General Conditions. Awarding organisations may calculate results for learners or adapt assessments or delivery models for out of scope qualifications. They must still comply with the requirements of their General Conditions of Recognition.