Extend level 3 courses to three years. Stop funding qualifications that don’t prepare young people for work. Fund FE properly.
These are among the proposals from an influential former ministerial special adviser who believes they would sort out England's technical education.
Jon Yates, who was an adviser to former education secretary Damian Hinds, took to Twitter today to list 10 ways the government could transform FE. His list follows a previous Twitter thread, in which he said that fixing “constant underperformance” in technical education should be “the top priority” for the UK.
Prime minister Boris Johnson promised the sector extra funding in his leadership campaign. However, the disappearance of the dedicated FE minister role – new education secretary Gavin Williamson being personally responsible for the remit – has led many to doubt this commitment. However, Yates has argued that, as well as additional funding, a host of major changes are required if the government is to "walk the walk".
Yates’ 10 ways to transform FE
Increase funding for technical education
1. Fund technical education properly: Despite the noise, we fund schools at the same level as other rich countries. But not our colleges. We need enough £ for every students to get 30 hours of learning a week not 15 and every teacher to be paid as much as a school teacher.— Jon Yates (@jonpayates) August 12, 2019
Give students more time
Yates points towards "great systems" internationally that give students three years to complete their course; two years isn’t long enough to become skilled at a craft, he says. Allowing students more time for a level 3 programme would ensure that they get skilled jobs, better wages and live in a richer, more equal society, he adds.
Have better metrics
Yates said that having just two years to complete a course means that many do easier ones than they should. The focus, he argues, should be on how to get A-level equivalence in three years. And, he said, the first year should be very flexible to accommodate those learners who require extra support.
PS You might be surprised by the amount of opposition to this ambition. One set of employers lobbied the department against training students to a higher skill level as they would need to be paid more (!). Pretty sure higher pay is what the public want.— Jon Yates (@jonpayates) August 12, 2019
Great courses only
All courses would guarantee that learners are trained to be competent at a particular job, said Yates – if it isn’t designed by employers to do this, funding should be stopped. He pointed towards the government’s ongoing review of FE, and encouraged them to be brave.
Funding should be conditional on colleges focusing much more on technical courses delivered over two to three years, said Yates. He said that the government has underfunded colleges, and expected to do everything – and that local authorities and local charities should be supported to do more lower-level learning, and leave degree courses to universities.
According to Yates, both governors and heads of audit committees should be paid – the Department for Education should support the recruitment of these positions, and make retraining the best people a priority.
Bring back polytechnics
8. Bring back Polys: Blair's aim of 50% of kids going to university was meant to include the type of technical mini degrees that polytechnics used to offer. Time to bring them back. This government calls them 'Institutes of Technology'. We should have one in each city.— Jon Yates (@jonpayates) August 12, 2019
Collaboration, not competition
Yates said that local groups of colleges should be required to set out plans of what courses are needed by the local economy. In turn, the DfE should be tough in agreeing to these but also release significant capital (taken back from local enterprise partnerships) to back them.
More apprenticeships should be delivered by colleges
And finally, Yates said that a fund should be introduced to encourage more colleges to deliver apprenticeships. He said that the public think that apprenticeships are only done by young people and pointed out that just 5 per cent of 16-year-olds and 6 per cent of 18-year-olds undertake an apprenticeship.
To round things off, Yates pressed the importance of technical education – even in this era of politics dominated by Brexit.
That's ten steps to improve technical education in England. I'd like to see politicians take this as seriously as Brexit. (Personally, I think it will matter more).— Jon Yates (@jonpayates) August 12, 2019