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Funding for 16-18 vocational spending should be devolved to Northern mayors

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership recommends handing over the 16-18 vocational education budget to Northern mayors as part of its vision to raise educational attainment

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The Northern Powerhouse Partnership recommends handing over the 16-18 vocational education budget to Northern mayors as part of its vision to raise educational attainment

Mayors in the North of England should have control over vocational education spending for 16- to 18-year-olds, and the region should become the world's leading centre for degree and higher apprenticeships, according to a new report.

In a report published today, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) has also set out bold plans to reduce the attainment gap between pupils in the North and those in London and improve the skills of its workforce.

Chair of the partnership George Osborne said too many children in the North aren’t getting the education they need or deserve.

A bold vision

Among the proposals to shake up further education and skills, the report suggests:

  • The North’s metro mayors should have control of vocational education spending for 16- 18-year-olds as well as the adult education budget
  • The North of England should become the world’s leading centre for degree and higher-level apprenticeships
  • Every Northern business, from sole trader to multi-national company, should be required to mentor or otherwise meaningfully reach out on careers and enterprise, to the same number of employees it has in the North
  • Those in receipt of Pupil Premium funding should get bespoke careers guidance and workplace-based learning to provide clearer choices at age 14 and to allow all vocational choices – including University Technical Colleges – the opportunity to effectively promote what they offer
  • Businesses should maximise their use of the apprenticeship levy
  • Establishing new Institutes of Technology to focus on the Northern Powerhouse leading the "Fourth Industrial Revolution"
  • To help retain the best minds in the North the application system for all post-16 opportunities, including apprenticeships, needs to be improved

'Unhelpful overlap'

Deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) Julian Gravatt said the report usefully documented a range of education and skills challenges across the North.

He added: "For the UK to succeed in a post-Brexit world, this country must be self-sufficient in skills. Colleges can make this a reality. We need to develop a new culture of lifelong learning and the right investment.

"There may be a case for devolving the entire 16 to 18 education budget of £6 billion, but devolving the vocational budget while continuing to manage the academic budget from the DfE could create an unhelpful overlap both for colleges and for young people while failing to address the issue of small, unsustainable sixth forms in schools.”

Use levy for all levels of learning

The chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Mark Dawe, said the organisation agreed the levy should be fully maximised, but stressed both the North’s need for economic growth and greater social inclusion should see it used at all levels of learning.

He added: "Degree apprenticeships have a really big part to play in generating growth in the North, but equally a glance at some MCA plans will show that meeting the skills needs in sectors such as hospitality and retail require investment in intermediate level apprenticeships with young people then encouraged to progress to higher levels."

Joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) Kevin Courtney said it was important that vocational education and apprenticeships were connected to high quality jobs.

He added: “We welcome the recognition from George Osborne that more investment in education is sorely needed. There is much rejoicing in heaven over a sinner that repenteth. Regional inequality and growing levels of deprivation and poverty are huge problems this Government is failing to tackle."

Northern Powerhouse boost

The Northern Powerhouse programme was the brainchild of former chancellor George Osborne with the ambition to create an extra 850,000 jobs and add £100 billion to the UK economy by 2050. He said: “In all the work we have done consulting with businesses in the North, poor skills and inadequate training come across consistently as the major issues.”

A key ambition of the report is to give 900,000 young people work experience by requiring employers to mentor the same number of young people as they have Northern employees. For a large company like Barclays, this would mean them supporting at least 12,000 youngsters.

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