Campaign for Learning shares post-16 education and skills paper on levelling up for all | NCFE

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Campaign for Learning shares post-16 education and skills paper on levelling up for all

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Campaign for Learning has published a collection of 18 articles and recommendations by leading stakeholders and thinkers across the post-16 education and skills sector. The paper calls on the Chancellor to use his Spring Statement so the post-education and skills system can level up everyone, everywhere. 

Titled ‘Post-16 Education and Skills: Levelling Up Everyone, Everywhere’, the pamphlet looks at six key considerations for the Levelling Up agenda – national and placed-based strategies, young people, lifelong training, lifelong learning and post-16 providers. 

Julia Wright, National Director at Campaign for Learning, said: “From the perspective of post-16 education and skills policy, levelling up is about people as well as places.  The paper shows that the policy canvas is vast, the perspectives diverse and the insights important. 

"Together, our authors demonstrate the need for strong, nationally-based as well as place-based strategies if everyone, everywhere aged 16 and over are to level up through education and skills.” 

Recommendations from the paper 

The paper also includes a series of 15 recommendations from Campaign for Learning, calling upon the Chancellor to make some key announcements in his Spring Statement regarding post-16 education and skills in England: 

  • A review of place-based devolution of the 16-19 education budget 

Each time policy interest reaches a crescendo over devolution in England, the issue of place-based devolution of the £6.7bn 16-19 education budget comes to the fore. 

The government should announce a consultation on both the desirability and feasibility of devolving the 16-19 education budget from institutions to local leaders, noting that the budget funds school sixth forms as well as FE colleges and independent training providers. School sixth forms deliver vocational provision – including T Levels – as well as academic provision, and FE colleges/training providers deliver academic qualifications – such as GCSE English and Maths, and A Levels – as well as vocational courses.  

The government should take the post-16 education and skills sector into its confidence and finally intimate whether all or part of the £6.7bn 16-19 education budget should be devolved to local leaders by 2030, especially when the majority of England will be covered by devolution deals.  

  • A new mission to increase participation by 16-17 year-olds in learning 

The proportion of 16-17 year-olds meeting the duty to participate in England is 93.2%, meaning that 75,000 young people are not participating in recognised education and training. Participation also varies considerably by region, with participation highest in London (96.6%) but lowest in the South West (91.7%). DfE and DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) should introduce a new mission to ensure at least 95% of 16-17 year-olds in each of the 152 strategic local authorities are meeting the duty to participate.   

  • NEET-proof the impact of the Level 2 and below on 16-17 year-olds 

The Treasury and DfE should guarantee that the restriction of the number of Level 2 and below qualifications does not risk 16-17 year-olds turning away from full-time further education and becoming NEET (i.e. not in education, employment or training).  

  • A new mission to reduce 18-24 year-olds in employment on insecure contracts but not in full-time education 

Around 2.23m 18-24 year-olds in England are in employment but not in full-time education. Of these, around 12% are in insecure employment – i.e. self-employment, agency or jobs with zero-hour contracts – equivalent to 270,000 young adults. The proportion of 18-24 year-olds in employment on insecure contracts but not in full-time education is 18% in some parts of the north of England. DfE, DLUHC and DWP should introduce a new joint mission to reduce the number of 18-24 year-olds in England on insecure contracts.  

  • A living cost support package for the Skills Mission and the adult Level 3 offer to tackle the cost of living crisis 

Entitlements to free education and access to income contingent loans means adults on Level 3 and below courses do not have to pay up-front fees. Free education and fee-loans, however, will not be sufficient to secure participation to meet the Skills Mission – an extra 200,000 trained adults nationally driven by 80,000 in low skilled areas or enrolment on the adult Level 3 offer.   

The cost of living crisis means adults will need to put 'earning before learning' as they seek extra hours and shifts to pay for higher energy and food bills rather than start Level 3 and below courses. To meet the Skills Mission set out in the Levelling Up white paper and the adult Level 3 offer, the Spring Statement should set out a package of maintenance loans and grants to adults train and retrain, and allow flexible access to Universal Credit for unemployed and low paid claimants seeking to upskill and reskill.  

  • Join up the Levelling Up agenda with the reforms to higher education 

16-19 schools and college policy is pulling in a different direction to higher education policy. New 16-19 elite schools and colleges in areas of low educational attainment are bound to offer A Levels as the main entry qualification into full-time, 3-year Level 6 degrees, including non-STEM degrees. On the other hand, the government is seemingly seeking to restrict the number of places on full-time, 3-year Level 6 non-STEM degrees. The government should join up its Levelling Up agenda with its higher education reforms. It must avoid impacting the motivation to learn for 18 year-olds from poor households – living anywhere in England – who achieve the required A Level grades to enter three-year, full-time humanity degrees only to find a place is not available.  

David Gallagher, our Chief Executive, also commented on the recommendations: “Education has the power to be the great leveller. We welcome this paper which explores what 'levelling up' means in action across all ages and areas. In particular, it’s important to examine the barriers to accessing opportunities for learners of all backgrounds, ensuring they have the means to participate and also the motivations that will compel them to act.

"Importantly, this pamphlet puts people at the heart of all its insights; the change we shape is structural but the outcomes of these policies are deeply personal, ultimately enabling individuals to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.” 

It’s important to examine the barriers to accessing opportunities for learners of all backgrounds, ensuring they have the means to participate and also the motivations that will compel them to act.

David Gallagher, Chief Executive at NCFE
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