Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has said that the Labour Party will "end the historic neglect of further education" if they are elected to power.
Speaking at the Labour Party's education policy launch at Leeds City College today, Ms Rayner said that Labour would "upgrade Britain's economy" by shifting the focus of education to FE – a sector she said deserved a day "where somebody, a politician in power, said 'you are just as important.'"
"Productivity in Britain remains stubbornly low compared to our competitors," Ms Rayner said. "The average German worker can make everything a British one does in a week and take Fridays off. It is no suprise that countries with high-quality technical education have more productive economies.
"Which is why Labour will upgrade Britain's economy, by ending the historic neglect of further education, giving teachers...the investment they need to lead the world."
Yesterday the Labour Party announced that it would scrap tuition fees for "adult learners looking to re-train or upskill" and increase FE course funding if it is elected.
Among its general election pledges, Labour has promised to increase the adult skills budget by £1.5 billion, to reach £3 billion a year by the end of the Parliament, and restore the education maintenance allowance (EMA) for college students.
'FE changed my life'
Later in the press conference, Ms Rayner said that she was "sick" of the focus of educational policy being placed on higher education.
She added: 'Today is about further education, lifelong learning and adult education. That's what I wanted it to be about. "
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn later said: "We want people to love learning, not to be concerned by it. Because we all learn, all of our lives. That's what Angela is proposing. Lifelong learning, cradle to grave. You never stop being a student."
Labour Party education policies:
- Maintain the new apprenticeship levy, launched last month, but introduce new measures to drive up quality. These include measuring apprenticeship completions rather than starts, and “focusing on higher NVQ level apprenticeships, committing to double the number of completed apprenticeships at level three by the end of the parliament (94,000 in 2015/16 to 200,000 by the end of the Parliament)
- Protect the £440 million funding for non-levy payers on small and medium-sized businesses
- Increase the adult skills budget by £1.5 billion, so it will go up to £3 billion per year by 2021/22 "in order to abolish upfront fees and increase course funding by an average of 10 per cent year on year”.
- Restore the education maintenance allowance (EMA) for college students. The EMA was scrapped by the coalition in 2010. Labour estimates that reinstating it will cost £582 million a year.
- Bring back student grants for higher education students. It says this is expected to cost £1.63 billion next year, rising to £1.8 billion by the end of the Parliament.
- Increase capital investment to equip colleges to deliver T levels and an official pre-apprenticeship training programme.
- Set a target for all further education teaching staff to have teaching qualifications within five years, to be backed up with financial support.