Further education students were given the opportunity to quiz politicians about their education policies in an online pre-election hustings debate.
In yesterday's Twitter event, organised by the National Union of Students, a series of questions about FE were directed at Conservative skills minister Nick Boles (pictured), Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable, Labour’s shadow skills minister Liam Byrne and Green party FE spokesman Dave Cocozza using the #GenerationVote hashtag.
When asked how the parties would protect FE funding at a time of austerity, Mr Cable warned that planned investment was “at risk” if the “Tories on their own cut too much”, and said the UK needed the Lib Dems in government.
But Mr Boles said the Conservatives had “led a skills revolution”, with high-quality courses and 2 million more apprenticeships.
“And we'll go even further to back young people,” he added, but did not give further details.
Mr Byrne said Labour would protect the entire education budget and turn high-performing FE colleges into new "institutes of technical education", while Mr Cocozza said education funding should be increased, not cut.
The parties were asked how they would ensure more students were aware of the range of vocational pathways available for 16-18s. Mr Boles said that the government had already made "strides joining up schools with businesses, and promoting apprenticeships" but acknowledged there was "more to do".
Mr Byrne said Labour policy's of introducing "guaranteed" face-to-face careers guidance for young people would give them access to information about vocational, university and apprenticeship options, while Mr Cable called on schools and teachers to take the lead, “ensuring they present vocational and academic options as having same standing and status".
Mr Cocozza said the Greens did not have a specific policy on careers, but that it was “important careers teachers should be properly qualified”.
NUS president Toni Pearce said: “It is really positive that commitments were made by three of the parties – Labour, Lib Dem and Green – to protect FE funding. However, we’re still calling for all parties to go further in addressing cost of living issues for college students, most crucially around reintroducing the education maintenance allowance.”
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