The last year has been extraordinary. There's seldom been a time of such change in policy and people, creating a great deal of uncertainty. The snap election has meant the government’s decision-making capacity has been compromised and has meant a dialling back of some of the reforms to education.
However, as is usually the case in these circumstances, during the political turbulence and fall out of the past year, the Further Education (FE) sector has been ‘business as usual’, creating opportunities for learners to increase their employment and learning potential. This in itself is no mean feat, especially as the sector has faced multiple uncertainties, such as procurement for Adult Education Budgets and non-levy contracting.
This year has also seen the ‘biggest change to apprenticeships perhaps for a generation’ – the Apprenticeship Levy, which came into effect this session. Although the long-term impacts of this can’t yet be evaluated, it seems unlikely that this measure will lead to an immediate increase in the number of apprenticeships undertaken, or in the areas the government would wish.
This year has seen some clarity emerge around the Technical Education reforms set out in the Post-16 Skills Plan, with Justine Greening calling on employers to get behind the T-Level programmes and offer the work experience opportunities needed. The press appear to indicate that The Department for Education seems to be behind its own timescales on the plan.
It’s encouraging that our new Apprenticeship and Skills Minister, Anne Milton, is ‘here to listen and to learn’¸ and we hope she’ll set out more realistic and achievable objectives we can all work towards.
At NCFE, we’ve issued nearly 250,000 certificates, this year - a quarter of a million people that you’ve empowered to progress in their careers and personal lives. Given all the uncertainties and changes that we as a sector have been through this year, I think that perfectly displays the resilience of the FE sector.