The House of Commons Education Select Committee today heard from a range of sector leaders on the FE White Paper, expected in the autumn.
Each of the speakers highlighted the need for extra funding, as well for a national plan considering both the sector as a whole and local and regional need.
All participants were asked what three things they would like reflected in the government's plans for FE. Here is what they said.
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Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association:
"It is absolutely essential that we protect the applied general qualifications, BTECs and so on, because that is going to disenfranchise a huge number of young people if we don't do that.
"We must make sure that funding levels are fit for purpose, and we have got to make sure that we take a rounded approach to opening new provision for 16- to 18-year-olds and make sure we are joined up."
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute:
"We should set a higher ambition, backed by investment. We argued for another £1.9 billion pounds across England, which would help to double attainment at level 1 and 2.
"The second is a lifelong learning entitlement for people – a broader entitlement that includes retraining and the right to retrain. And the last is investment in learning and skills as part of a local ecosystem where we measure the outcomes."
David Robinson, director of Post-16 and Skills at Education Policy Institute:
"The first priority is funding. The second is ensuring that we don't just focus on T levels and higher technical qualifications, but also focus on the tail of underperformance we have. We have got 43 per cent of people not achieving a level 3 by the age of 19 and some of the lowest literacy and numeracy across developed countries – that needs to be addressed.
"And lastly, it is about closing the disadvantage gap. We see disadvantage continuing to have an effect. There is a strong argument for expanding from area-based disadvantage funding to pupil-based funding."
Jane Hickie, managing director at the Association of Employment and Learning providers:
"One is putting the apprenticeships funding on a long-term sustainable footing, which is about letting levy-payers use the funding as they wish and having a standalone budget for SMEs.
"The second is better support for level 2, and more investment in the adult education budget so that works better."
Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City & Guilds Group:
"To me, they are interlinked. We need to address adult lifelong learning and almost drop the 'adult'. Lifelong learning should be the ecosystem that underpins the White Paper. The FE White Paper should be looking at lifelong learning that goes all the way through and the transition we were talking about. There needs to be more investment and funding into lifelong learning. As part of that, we'd like to see an entitlement for careers, advice and guidance.
"The second would be a national plan for skills, but one that is then devolved locally and regionally with flexible funding to have flexible skills credits and flexibilities that can respond to local need.
"My third one would be for us to reimagine how learning could be supported by digital transformation, because it is not going to go away. It is more an employer-owned agenda than it is a solely state-owned agenda."
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges:
"My three are a national strategy which is backed up by place-based plans in collaboration of everyone in the locality. Secondly, I want colleges to be funded to provide advice directly to employers in specialised sectors of the economy that needs it.
"And thirdly, I want Dame Mary Ney's nurturing relationship implemented. And that will need a complete stripping out of bureaucracy, moving to outcome-based funding and a much more mature, strategic relationship between government and colleges."