Conservative manifesto: What does it say about further education?

Conservative manifesto pledges 'significantly discounted bus and train travel for apprentices' – and the 3 million apprenticeships target has been retained

Stephen Exley

News article image

If elected, the Conservative Party would “give Britain the technical education it has lacked for decades”, according to the party’s manifesto published today.

“For too long in this country, technical excellence has not been valued as highly as academic success," it states. “We want British technical education to be as prestigious as our world-leading higher education system, and for technical education in this country to rival the best technical systems in the world.”

But the changes needed “will require bold reform of the funding, institutional and qualifications frameworks for technical education, in partnership with British industry”.

New manifesto pledges

  • Establishing an institute of technology “in every major city in England”. The IoTs “will enjoy the freedoms that make our universities great”, including eligibility for public funding for productivity and skills research, access to loans and grants for their students and being able to gain royal charter status and regius professorships in technical education
  • A “major review of funding across tertiary education as a whole, looking at how we can ensure that students get access to financial support that offers value for money, is available across different routes and encourages the development of the skills we need as a country”
  • Introducing “significantly discounted bus and train travel for apprentices to ensure that no young person is deterred from an apprenticeship due to travel costs”
  • Creating a right for employees to request leave for training, and introducing a “national retraining scheme”, with training costs met by the government. Companies will be able to access levy funding to support wage costs during the training period
  • Introducing a “right to lifelong learning in digital skills, just as we have done for literacy and numeracy”
  • “Breaking down the barriers” to public sector workers taking on more qualified roles because of their prior educational attainment: “For instance, we will ensure that teaching assistants can become qualified teachers and healthcare assistants can become nurses via a degree apprenticeship route, in addition to other routes”
  • Exploring teaching apprenticeships “sponsored by major companies, especially in STEM subjects”

Existing policies retained

  • Sticking to the target of creating 3 million apprenticeships by 2020
  • The creation of T levels in line with the Post-16 Skills Plan, and increasing the number of teaching hours “by 50 per cent to an average of 900 hours per year", as well as ensuring "each student does a three-month work placement as part of their course"
  • Investing in further education colleges “to make sure they have world-class equipment and facilities” and creating a new “national programme to attract experienced industry professionals to work in FE colleges”
  • Allowing large firms to pass levy funds to small firms in their supply chain, and developing a new programme to allow larger firms to “place apprentices in their supply chains”
  • Dealing with local skills shortages through “Skills Advisory Panels and Local Enterprise Partnerships"
  • Introducing a “Ucas-style portal for technical education

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes FE News on Twitter, like us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

Latest stories