Hammond to spend £500m a year on technical education reforms

Spring Budget to include increasing 16-19 training to 900 hours a year, and extending maintenance loans to students on level 4-6 technical courses

Stephen Exley

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The government is committing an additional £500 million each year to increase the amount of training available for 16- to 19-year-olds on technical programmes to over 900 hour per year.

This is one of a series of announcements being made today, ahead of chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Budget on Wednesday. These include offering maintenance loans to students on higher technical level courses at levels 4-6 who attend Institutes of Technology and national colleges, as well as for part-time degree students. The government has also reiterated its intention to press ahead with the overhaul of technical education unveiled in the Post-16 Skills Plan last year.

These reforms will ensure that “when young people leave college they have the skills, knowledge and expertise that employers want”, according to a statement from the Treasury. The reforms are designed to “help deliver a vision to have two genuine routes of equal footing to develop world class skills for young people; either via a well-established academic route or a technical skills route with a new and improved upgraded system”.

The reforms announced today include:

  • Increasing the amount of training for 16-19 year olds on technical routes by more than 50 per cent to over 900 hours a year, including a “high-quality industry work placement”. These routes “will be rolled out from 2019/20 and will receive over £500 million of new funding every year once fully up and running”.
  • Maintenance loans will be made available to students on higher technical education courses at levels 4-6 in national colleges and Institutes of Technology, in a similar way to loans for university students.
  • A fund of “up to £40 million” will be created for “piloting new approaches to encourage lifelong learning”.
  • Maintenance loans will be available for “part-time degree-level study to improve support available to students, and doctoral loans to support higher-level study”. The Treasury statement added: “Successive reforms to the student finance system now mean that government support will be available to adults wishing to study at any qualification level, from basic skills to PhDs.”

'A vote of confidence in colleges'

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: “We are delighted that the chancellor has recognised what the AoC has been saying about the need to invest more in technical education for both young people and adults. For too long, technical skills and education have been overlooked when investment in education is being considered; this announcement will make a significant and positive difference.

“This investment is a vote of confidence in colleges that are ready to work with employers to co-design the new routes, deliver the 900 hours per year and help more young people make a smooth and successful transition to work and to higher level learning. This signals a step-change in thinking, backed by investment in technical education for young people which will put us on a par with our international competitors.”

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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

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