Ofsted and adult education: Labour's election pledges

With a general election now looming on 12 December, what is the Labour manifesto likely to hold for FE?

Ofsted and adult education: Labour's election pledges

At the heart of Labour’s plans for further education will be the key premise of its National Education Service – making lifelong learning free at the point of use and building an integrated service that’s easy for people to access.

Informing what exactly this could look like will be the findings of Labour’s Lifelong Learning Commission, due to report over the coming months. Its interim report focused on the need for further investment, inspiring adults to learn – with the commission exploring the idea of an entitlement to lifelong learning – and the need for a lifelong learning strategy.

Conservative manifesto: T levels and IoTs

Lib Dem manifesto: GCSE resits and funding

Analysis: The Lifelong Learning Commission - key findings

Parity of esteem

Speaking to Tes at the Labour Party Conference in September, shadow FE minister Gordon Marsden said the commission would look at the “silos between higher education, further education and skills”, and in that context, Labour wanted to see “higher education and further education treated with parity of esteem”.

It is likely the manifesto will contain a more general funding pledge, with Mr Marsden stressing the extra £400 million announced by the Tory government was insufficient to plug the gap. “What we would like to see is a much broader ability for colleges to access funding, particularly to restore some of the funding for older learners,” Mr Marsden said in September.  

Labour would also aim to reconsider the student support system, scrapping advanced learner loans and introducing grants – something that was already a manifesto promise in 2017.

The apprenticeship levy is also likely to get a mention in the manifesto – with Gordon Marsden insisting it has created system issues. Both the levy and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education would likely see further reform under a Labour government.

Scrapping Ofsted

Labour has also said that “in principle” devolving further decision making powers on education and skills would “make sense”, stating: “The days of Whitehall simply being a micro-manager we think are passing.”

And then, last but not least, there is Labour’s promise, made at this year’s party conference, to scrap Ofsted – which would have serious implications both on the college and the apprenticeship sector. 

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said Ofsted's inspectors were not only failing to give an accurate account of school standards but also fuelling a crisis in teacher recruitment. Under Labour, she said, it would be scrapped and replaced with a different system.

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