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Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced the partial reopening of further education (FE) colleges and work-based-learning providers to support the delivery of vocational qualifications this summer.

The move follows the Minister’s announcement in late April regarding the alternative arrangements put in place for vocational qualifications in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the cancellation of scheduled assessments and exams.

FE colleges have been continuing teaching and learning, as well as student support services, through innovative forms of virtual delivery and a number of qualifications will be based upon a calculated result this summer. However a number of other qualifications, particularly those in work-based learning, will require some form of practical assessment in order for learners to achieve their qualification this academic year.

During a visit to the Southern Regional College Portadown campus this morning the Minister said: “It has been my priority to support, as far as possible, the award of vocational qualifications this summer to enable as many learners to progress to their chosen career path, while protecting the safety and well-being of all the students and staff.

“FE colleges and work-based-learning providers have been liaising with vocational qualification awarding organisations to understand what form practical assessments should take, and they are now in a position to move forward with on-site adapted assessments for a number of curriculum areas.

“The colleges have completed the necessary risk assessments and implemented the health and safety measures required, and I am pleased to announce a partial and targeted reopening to facilitate the assessments which will be key to increasing the number of learners who are able to progress.

“Over 2,850 FE learners will now achieve their qualifications as a result of the completion of the adaptive assessments, which will take place in those subject areas where the associated industrial sector has been given approval to return to work.”

The Minister concluded: “I want to congratulate and thank all the colleges and their staff for their continued hard work to date, and the students and their families for their ongoing patience and support during what remains a very challenging time.”