The government's long-promised FE White Paper “Skills for Jobs; Lifelong Learning for Opportunities and Growth” has been launched and there is a clear focus on the pivotal role that further and technical education has in helping people get skills for good jobs now and in the future. The full Skills for Jobs White Paper has a lot of detail about government plans but it is worth noting that some parts of college activity and life are barely covered. We’d highlight the following:
- Local planning: Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) will be tested in 2021, will be included in planned legislation and will be used to route funding from a new Strategic Development Fund. The idea is that employer groups - perhaps organised by Chambers of Commerce - will articulate skills demands and will work with groups of colleges to identify duplication, gaps and investment needs. Government hopes to see new College Business Centres as a result of this process.
- Higher technical education: There are a number of promises relating to higher technical education including a target to introduce a new Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) by 2025 covering an amount equivalent four years of post 18 study and supporting new higher technical qualifications on the same basis as degrees and other higher education courses. These were recommendations from the Post 18 review. A separate DfE statement published today promises a full and final response to the Post 18 review later in 2021.
- Regulation: Some reshuffling of the roles of regulators. IFATE will be given an expanded role in overseeing qualifications (effectively all FE qualifications outside academic ones). Ofsted will inspect apprenticeships at any level. OfS will be the gatekeeper for courses at Level 4 and above. ESFA will introduce its annual strategic conversations with colleges. DfE, meanwhile, plans to take some reserve powers to intervene in extreme circumstances in colleges - presumably as an alternative to the college insolvency process.
- Funding: A promise of reforms to simplify funding by removing unnecessary rules, ringfencing, bureaucracy but few firm proposals. DfE makes the case in the white paper for longer-term funding settlements with providers judged on outcomes but this will be something for the next spending review. The white paper outlines the money allocated in the spending review on 25th November but there is no additional funding announced at this stage.
- Apprenticeships: DfE note that big reduction in apprenticeship starts since the start of the pandemic (37% down among levy payers; 65% down among smaller employers) but report a £2.5 billion budget in 2021-2 (more than the original 2020-1 budget) and some measures to increase take-up which include an online matching service for transfers.
- Careers: Actions on careers include a tougher line to ensure that schools offer information on technical education and apprenticeships, an aim that careers education starts from Year 7 and work to make the National Careers Service the go-to place for information.
- FE teacher recruitment and training: Promised actions include a national FE teacher recruitment campaign, stepping up of existing initiatives and new regulation of initial teacher training.
- Governance and leadership: DfE plan to work with the sector to develop new governance standards covering recruitment, training, appointment of senior staff and self-assessment.
Key to the success of the White Paper will be our collective constructive engagement with the consultation process. We are working with DfE to get their timelines and deadlines, but we will be consulting with you over the coming weeks and months to make sure that the sector response helps to ensure the best bits of the White Paper make it through, whilst challenging and shaping bits that need a bit of work. If you have any initial thoughts, reactions or questions, please get in touch with your Area Director or any of the national team.