Earlier this week, Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap general election on 8 June, with the purdah period beginning this Saturday. The news came as a surprise to many, but how will the election itself and pre-election campaigning impact on our sector and the planned reforms?
The first thing to note is that with purdah beginning imminently, there won’t be any new policy announcements until after 8 June.
The knock-on effect of pre-election campaigning and the election itself could mean delays to decision-making and lack of progress on activity such as AEB procurement and growth requests, as well as the implementation of the Post-16 Skills Plan.
Even before the announcement of the election, the Department for Education seemed to be struggling with its workload and tight timescales – as shown by the fact that the already delayed non-levy procurement process was put on pause last week until the end of 2017. Now, with purdah and everything going on around the election, things are even more likely to slow down or be paused completely.
This is of course frustrating for the FE sector where so much reform is ongoing and so much work still needs to be done.
Thinking ahead to the election result – if the Conservative party remains in power, a new manifesto is an opportunity to acquire a fresh mandate. Doubts have been raised as to whether the 3 million apprenticeship target will still feature in the Conservative manifesto, whereas selective schools will almost certainly be included. If we do end up with a new government, they could take the decision to reverse or amend key policies such as the apprenticeship reforms and the Post-16 Skills Plan.
Whichever party is in power, NCFE will always work to ensure that the importance of technical and professional education is recognised and promoted for the benefit of learners and employers.
However – and we’ve said this many times over the last few years – our sector really needs stability so that the reforms can be carried out successfully. We hope that regardless of the election result, the government will prioritise seeing these crucial reforms through; the last thing we need is more change.