Tories must state their intentions

25th July 2008 at 01:00

After a decade of unprecedented investment in further education and a huge amount of change, the voice of the Conservatives on post-16 education has sounded rather distant, if not irrelevant.

But with the prospect of a Tory government now being talked about by the man in the pub as if there could actually be one, the party's position is being taken seriously.

There is plenty of evidence in its green paper on FE that it has listened carefully to the concerns of colleges.

The question is whether the promise of more freedom for colleges will be enough to satisfy sceptics that David Cameron's brand of conservatism really will be kinder. FE was a considerably smaller activity when the Conservatives were last in power.

The fear will be that a Tory government - under pressure to cut public spending - will see FE as a soft target for cuts, and certainly a less visible one compared to schools or universities, where the eyes of the national media and the shires are focused.

What is clear is that fundamental questions remain unanswered. First, we don't know where the Tories will stand on the most historic change proposed by this Government: raising the leaving age to 18 - not due to be implemented in full until 2015, long after the next general election. If this makes the statute book, will a Conservative government go ahead with it?

To question the raising of the leaving age is to risk the wrath of the education establishment. But students who attend by compulsion could have a detrimental effect on those who attend by choice. This issue needs to be properly considered, and we need to know how a future Conservative government would address it.

Second, there is the question of the split which has seen one education department turned into two. We know the Conservatives' instinct is to reduce the number of quangos - even if, in reality, they have created plenty of their own. But will their love of small government see them reduce the number of jobs around the Cabinet table by restoring a single education department?

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now