Kate Green: Post-16 plans 'close the door on millions'

Labour's Kate Green says the Queen's Speech was a 'missed opportunity' – but Gavin Williamson defends skills plans

Julia Belgutay

Lifetime Skills Guarantee: The government's post-16 plans close the door on millions of people, says Labour shadow education secretary Kate Green

Ministers have "chosen to close the door on millions of people who need to retrain", Labour's shadow education secretary, Kate Green, has said.

Speaking in Parliament in a debate on this week's Queen's Speech, she said the government had merely reannounced "a months-old commitment for a Lifetime Skills Guarantee that is simply not guaranteed". 

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Ms Green said: "It is not guaranteed because you cannot use it if you are already qualified to level 3, you cannot use it unless you are getting a qualification that the secretary of state has decided he thinks is valuable, and you cannot use it if you need maintenance support while you learn. 

"If you are already qualified to level 3 in your existing field but need to retrain for a new industry, there is nothing on offer for you."

'Damage to the FE college sector'

Ms Green added that after "a decade of Conservative damage" to the FE sector, she "desperately wanted the government to get skills policy right".

She said: "Labour believes in a high-skill, high-wage economy that offers fulfilling, rewarding work – jobs in which people will take great pride. That’s why for years I, and my colleagues in the Labour Party,  including [the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer], in his speech opening the debate on the loyal address on Tuesday, and [Angela Rayner, former shadow education secretary] during her time in this post, have championed lifelong learning, further education and all those who learn and teach in the sector. 

"In contrast, in a startling if only partial conversion in the party opposite after a decade that they have spent in power – including times when the education secretary and the prime minister sat around the Cabinet table and nodded through cuts to further education and a loan-based funding model that, by the government’s own admission, directly reduced the number of adults in education – we have reforms that offer at best a mere reversal of some of the worst excesses of Conservative ideology over the past ten years."

'Radical' reform plans 

Setting out the government's plans for a post-16 and skills bill, including a Lifetime Skills Guarantee, education secretary Gavin Williamson said "radical reform of post-16 has been too long needed". He added that his party's reform plans, to be set out in the bill, were "radical". 

Chair of the Commons Education Select Committee and former skills minister Robert Halfon said he was "excited" about the Queen's Speech, with skills and FE "at the heart" for the first time. He added that the "vision a Lifetime Skills Guarantee providing all adults with the opportunity to retrain and skill with a lifelong loan entitlement is a huge step forward".

He said free level 3 courses for those without A levels could do much to retrain those who do not have the right qualifications.

However, in the long term, he called for the apprenticeship levy to be reformed and for degree apprenticeships to be "rocket-boosted", 

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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