The Chancellor set out his budget that would invest in skills and employment – as well as setting out his vision for the future economy.
There were a number of measures outlined for Education and Skills, so let’s see how they stack up against my pre-budget wish list:
- A commitment to protecting the schools budget in real terms, matching inflation. This will ensure that schools can plan for the medium and longer term.
- Schools and early years were conspicuous by their absence in the budget statement, beyond commitments to give schools and colleges £600 for every extra pupil who decides to take Maths or Further Maths A Levels or Core Maths. This is very welcome, but does not focus on those who are stuck on the borderline of achieving their GCSE grade 4 and are doomed to re-sit until they do.
- Increase investment in the Careers & Enterprise Company, with the aim of creating an independent careers advice and guidance service that can be used by schools, technical education providers, parents and learners.
- Again, there’s no real mention of careers guidance in the budget documents, beyond investigating ways to remove gender disparity in STEM subjects. The government’s careers strategy should help with this but we await further details on this.
A commitment to ongoing protection of the Adult Education Budget, with the added commitment that it can be used to fund Level 2 & 3 courses taken in the workplace.
- The launch of the national retraining scheme, with £30m in digital skills distance learning courses and supporting expansion of the construction sector is welcome, but we need to ensure that this learning flexibility can be rolled out across all priority industry sectors.
Revise the incentive payments for providers and employers of 16-18 year old apprentices, to empower employers to take on more young people.
- I welcome the announcement of a (slight) increase in the minimum wage for apprentices, but feel that a real opportunity was missed at the budget to implement measures that would allow for a growth in the areas outlined above
Ensure a minimum negotiation floor placed on each funding band for apprenticeships standards, to ensure that quality is maintained, and there is not a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of apprenticeship delivery.
- I am disappointed that there was no clarity around this, however I will monitor proposals to add flexibility to the levy for employers with interest, my chief concern being that the apprenticeship brand is not harmed as a result of this.
So overall, I’d give the Chancellor a new GCSE grade 7 for this budget, effort applied, but content sadly missing expectation.