Technical and Further Education Bill
This bill is designed to build on the recent expansion in apprenticeships and create a “gold standard” for vocational training, according to Justine Greening, Education Secretary. "If we are going to create a country that works for everyone, then we believe it is time we gave technical education the same focus that it deserves, alongside our schools and academic education reforms”, she says.
The Bill seeks to tackle weak courses, streamline the number of qualifications and strengthen engagement with businesses, placing technical training on a par with academic education. It will also rename the Institute for Apprenticeships as the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and extend its role.
Justine Greening committed to “focus much more” on FE during a speech at an event in London to celebrate the Education Endowment Foundation’s fifth anniversary. She admitted that the government had for a long time focused mainly on improving academic rather than vocational-based education, and promised to “bring that same lens and focus on to the more technical education routes, which let’s face it, most young people follow”. This approach was backed by influential education select committee chair Neil Carmichael, who recently rejected new grammar schools as a method of increasing social mobility when there were better providers for doing the job, such as general FE colleges, university technical colleges, and independent training providers. These providers were identified as neglected “Cinderella areas”, which he claimed the party agrees need more financial support.
However, although the Government is keen on implementing the Sainsbury proposals, the department insists that this will only happen “where that is possible within current budget constraints”. Lord Sainsbury has stressed that any new “high quality” system will need to be properly funded if it is to rival continental systems, particularly in Germany. He also pointed out the importance of having a national system of qualifications that is well understood and generally accepted, both by students and by employers. With the current system including over 22,000 qualifications, there is an on-going joke that “if you are not confused about post-16 education, then you don’t understand it”. He added that any talk of government being able to endow the academic and vocational system with parity of esteem without first ensuring its genuine currency with employers as “nonsense”.
The first reading of the bill took place on October 27. It will go through three more stages in the House of Commons, and then five stages in the House of Lords before it can gain Royal Assent.