Given that FE played a central role in high-profile speeches by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner last week, there are few surprises in the party’s general election manifesto, published today.
But the document outlines more details about the key points for the sector. And, significantly, there is more about skills and apprenticeships in the manifesto than there is about schools.
What the manifesto says
- Devolve responsibility for skills to city regions or devolved administration “wherever there is an appetite”
- Introduce “free, lifelong education in colleges, enabling everyone to upskill or retrain at any point in life”
- Stop building new university technical colleges, while “redirecting the money to increase teacher numbers in the FE sector”
- Broadly support the Sainsbury review of technical education, but “ensure vocational routes incorporate the service sector as well as traditional manufacturing, working in tandem with our broad industrial strategy to deliver for the whole economy”
- “Improve careers advice and open up a range of routes through, and back into, education, striking a balance between classroom and on-the-job training, to ensure students gain both technical and soft skills”
- Bring funding for 16- to 18-year-olds “in line with key stage 4 baselines, while ensuring that the budget is distributed fairly between colleges and school sixth forms”
- Bring back the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16- to 18-year-olds from lower- and middle-income backgrounds
- Replace Advanced Learner Loans and upfront course fees with direct funding, “making FE courses free at the point of use, including English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) courses”
- Encourage “cooperation and leadership across colleges and sixth forms, improving curriculum breadth and quality”
- Set a target for all FE teaching staff to have a teaching qualification within five years
- Extend support for training to teachers working for independent training providers
- Increase capital investment to equip colleges to deliver T levels and an official pre-apprenticeship trainee programme.
- Maintain the apprenticeship levy, and require the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to report on an annual basis on the quality outcomes of completed apprenticeships. It would also guarantee trade union representation at the institute
- Set a target to double the number of completed level 3 apprenticeships by 2022
- Give employers more flexibility in how the levy is deployed, including allowing the levy to be used for pre-apprenticeship programmes
- Protect the £440 million funding for apprenticeships for small-and medium-sized employers which don’t pay the levy
- Set targets to increase apprenticeships for people with disabilities, care leavers and veterans, and ensure broad representation of women, BAME, LGBT and people with disabilities in all kinds of apprenticeships
- Consult on introducing “incentives for large employers to over-train numbers of apprentices to fill skills gaps”
- Reverse funding cuts to Unionlearn
- Set up a commission on lifelong learning tasked with integrating FE and HE
'Ending the historic neglect of the FE sector'
Gordon Marsden, shadow minister for FE and skills, said: "I am delighted to see a number of the ideas we have developed over the past 18 months endorsed in the manifesto and in particular ending the historic neglect of the FE sector, giving parity of esteem across the sector, and backing that up, particularly on EMA, apprenticeships and lifelong learning, with the funding and strategic direction they need.
"We have a vision of building bridges to upskill and reskill our workforce at all ages and give people, where they want it, real control over their local economies instead of being micro managed in Whitehall. Ending the treatment of support for apprentices as second class is another key objective which the manifesto lays out in line with our offering of opportunities to all, whether 16-19 year olds or adult skills into the forties, fifties and beyond.”