Much like the rest of the nation, the election announcement certainly took us by surprise. What now follows is the usual pause to decision making due to Purdah, and we can consider what changes an election may bring to our sector.
Many of the policies outlined by the Conservative manifesto, in relation to apprenticeships and technical education, are those proposed by the previous (coalition) government. The broad direction of travel remains the same as set out in their manifesto, keeping the target of 3 million apprenticeship starts. However, they do highlight that further funding reforms are on the horizon, with ‘a wholesale review of tertiary education’ on the cards.
Labour has stated ‘their intention to introduce free, lifelong education in FE colleges, enabling everyone to upskill or retrain at any point in life’, as well as increasing funding for further education – with an increase to the ‘adult skills budget’ [sic] of £1.5bn by the end of the parliament.
Their manifesto details highlight that they would ditch the ‘Technical Colleges’ plans, replace Advanced Learner Loans with direct funding and continue with the Sainsbury reforms to technical education. Interestingly, they’ve also highlighted a pre-apprenticeship offer that could be funded through the Apprenticeship Levy. They’ve also set out that they’d cover an apprentice’s travel costs, as well as doubling the number of apprenticeships at level 3.
The Liberal Democrats have revealed that they would protect funding in the further education sector over the 5 years of the parliament to the tune of £660m, as well as doubling the number of businesses that hire apprentices. They’d keep the National Colleges as centres of expertise for key sectors and expand higher level technical education and training.
If the election transpires as the pundits anticipate; a Conservative victory with a significant majority, there could still be a change of minister.
The rumours are that Theresa May is expecting a large enough majority that she’ll be able to create a cabinet of her own liking – removing those she’s seen as not supportive of her cause.
It could mean that Education Secretary Justine Greening’s future is in doubt, due to her perceived less than enthusiastic support of the aforementioned grammar school plans. It’s possible that there could be a change of Skills Minister too, although they will, at least in the short term, have to adhere to the focus on apprenticeships and technical education reforms.
Whatever the outcome, we’ll need the government that is returned to Westminster to get a handle on the ongoing education reforms in technical education and apprenticeships, as these reforms continue to develop at pace.
As the run up to the election develops, we’ll keep you informed as Purdah allows on any developments that may impact you as a customer.