Today the government published the long-awaited Skills for Jobs White Paper – setting out a large number of measures that it hopes will align the FE system more closely with the needs of the economy and learners of all ages.
It also sets out changes to accountability and funding structures, along with plans for FE staff training.
But the White Paper was not the only key publication for the sector today – the government also published an "interim conclusion" to the Augar Report, which was published in May 2019, and its response to a review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework.
FE White Paper: Government to ‘overhaul’ accountability
Tes has pulled together everything you need to know.
Skills for Jobs White Paper: Government to ‘overhaul’ accountability
The Skills for Jobs White Paper calls for employers to be "put at the heart of post-16 education and skills", designing "almost all" technical qualifications, and for business and FE providers to work together on “local skills improvement plans”.
It also proposes that FE funding be "streamlined and simplified", with a promise to consider a 'multi-year' funding plan for the sector. It suggests that the education secretary be given more powers to intervene where "persistent problems" occur in colleges.
Thirty-five reforms for the FE sector
The White Paper sets out 35 reforms for the sector, which you can view in full here.
They are split into five categories: “employers at the heart of post-16 skills”, “advanced technical and higher technical skills”, “a flexible lifetime guarantee”, “responsive providers supported by effective accountability”, “governance and intervention” and “supporting outstanding teaching”.
What does the sector think?
The FE sector welcomed the White Paper for shining a spotlight on FE reform, but called for the government to deliver sustained and long-term funding for the sector.
Concerns have been raised over the teacher pay gap between FE and schools, and questions have been asked about the delay to introducing the flexible lifelong loan entitlement, which the government proposed for introduction in 2025.
Keegan says White Paper is FE's 'day in the sun'
Apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan told Tes this afternoon that colleges would be instrumental in delivering the government's agenda set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper.
Instead of removing autonomy from colleges and providers, the government's proposals put colleges at the heart of delivering what the economy needed, she said.
Labour's Kate Green says White Paper has come too late
Speaking in the House of Commons after education secretary Gavin Williamson's statement, Labour's shadow education secretary, Kate Green, said that the White Paper has come too late for families, businesses and the country.
Ms Green said that while she supported the expansion of the right to lifelong learning, it only "served to reverse the damage inflicted by years of Conservative governments, which saw learning entitlements caught and replaced with loans, that meant the number of adult learners plummeted."
Augar review: Government plans ‘modular’ approach to HE
The government also published an "interim" conclusion to the Augar Review, which was published in 2019. The response said it planned to introduce a flexible, modular higher education offer in colleges and universities, which would provide greater opportunities for upskilling throughout people’s careers.
A full response is expected alongside the next spending review.
Post-qualification offers: The government opens consultation
The consultation on a post-qualifications admissions (PQA) system opened today and will close on 13 May 2021. In its argument for introducing PQA, the government said that the current system was "complex, lacks transparency, works against the interests of some students and encourages undesirable admissions practices".
It said that PQA could "lead to students making better-informed decisions, improve continuation rates in higher education and potentially lead to better career outcomes for students".
Teaching excellence in HE to be assessed every four years
An independent review into the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) was published today, a year after it was completed. The government also published its response and decided that the TEF will now run every four to five years, the Department for Education has said.
Currently, higher education providers are given a TEF award each year that judges teaching. The institutions are given a rating of gold, silver or bronze, or a provisional award if there is not enough data for a full assessment. To be considered, the providers must meet demanding national quality requirements.