21 Jan 2021
The Further Education White Paper January 2021
The Government has published a White Paper setting out plans and reforms to Further Education, Technical Education, Apprenticeships and related programmes in England.
The stated aim of the plans is to rebalance technical and academic education, on the basis that reforms over the past few decades have favoured the latter at the expense of skills gaps across sectors of the economy. Evidence shows that the current funding system disincentivises providers away from high value qualifications that employers need. The paper recognises particular gaps in technicians, engineers and healthcare workers. Employer leadership remains at the centre of the system, and there is a recognition that the quality of labour market information needs to be improved.
The paper’s priorities include:
A number of the reforms build upon previous consultations and announcements, including the funding system and qualification approval proposals where the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group and the Standards Advisory Group have already contributed to consultations.
1. National Skills Fund and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee
The paper starts to put some flesh on the bones of last year’s announcement. Further detail on how the £2.5 billion National Skills Fund will be subject to consultation at a later date.
From April 2021, all adults will be entitled to fully-funded provision for their first technical Level 3 qualification.
From 2025, everyone will be entitled to 4 years of post-18 education – with the intention that loans for higher technical education will be as easy as for university students. This will be funded from the National Skills Fund.
2. Labour Market Intelligence
All elements of the system will rely on information under the auspices of the Skills & Productivity Board set up in November last year. Employers, providers and Local Skills Improvement Plans will all be able to draw upon this to inform their plans.
3. Local Skills Improvement Plans
Employers, colleges, providers and other local stakeholders will set out the key changes needed to make technical skills training more responsive to employers’ skills needs in a particular area. These will build on the work of existing Skills Advisory Panels. Where appropriate, these will be led by Chambers of Commerce along similar lines to German and Dutch systems.
4. Employer-led Standards
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education will expand its plans to align all technical education to employer-led occupational Standards. This approach uses Apprenticeship Standards as the template, and intends to apply to almost all technical provision at Level 3 and above by 2030.
5. Funding and governance reform
The system will improve incentives to match technical education to employer needs, including:
Reforming technical education at Levels 4&5 to align with employer-led Standards as already proposed at Level 3.
Simplified, outcome-based funding, potentially on multi-year allocations to allow longer term provider planning
Strengthened rules on governance, subcontracting and government intervention powers
Implementing value for money reforms to apprenticeship funding, as per previous consultation.
6. Apprenticeship funding
The reforms include some issues explored and suggested by NSSG, and include:
7. Quality of provision
There will be new quality assurance arrangements for Higher Technical Education from 2025, aligning the work of the Office for Students and Ofsted.
A new national recruitment campaign for teaching staff in technical education is announced, as well as plans to strengthen their professional development and align it to employer-led Standards. There will be a new Workforce Industry Exchange Programme to improve the industry relevance of teachers’ knowledge.
There will be a specific focus on progression routes, including a requirement to address these specifically in all Standards, Apprenticeships and qualifications design.
The Careers Enterprise Company and the National Careers Service will be more closely aligned, included revamped information to young people through their websites.
Further details of the implementation of these plans will be subject to consultation later, and there should be further clarity when the multi-year Comprehensive Spending Review is published later in the year.