Queen’s Speech 2017 – technical education plans – expert reaction

The Queen has set out the Government’s intentions for the new parliament. This includes plans for technical education. The Queen announced, “My government will continue to work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded. My ministers will work to ensure people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future, including through a major reform of technical education.”

Comment from Professor Martin Doel, FETL Professor of Leadership in Further Education and Skills at UCL IOE and former Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges: 

“The prominence given to technical education in the Queen’s Speech is reassuring.

In the years from 2010, technical and professional education, aside from apprenticeships, suffered from relative neglect. Adult education funding in the period to 2015 declined by almost 40% in real terms and, while school funding to age 16 was protected in real terms in this period, funding for 16-18 education sustained cuts of 14% in real terms, resulting in a 20% differential in funding between pre and post 16 funding (figures verified by IFS research) .

Since most young people will commence technical education at age 16, it is hard to see how major reform in this area can be carried forward without substantial additional funding; the previous Government’s Industrial Strategy foreshadowed a greater focus on developing skills and technical education and the subsequent Budget in Apr 17 promised a full-scale review of funding in this area and granted an immediate uplift of £500m to enable the development and introduction of T levels.  With the commitment to fairly funding all schools, it will be important that funding for 16-18 year olds and technical education is not once again ‘squeezed out’ of the programme.  Likewise, funding adult education must assume greater significance with Brexit, given the corresponding need for adults to re-skill through  working lives that are becoming longer with improved health and changes to pension arrangements.

As well as the funding requirements, delivering on the Queen’s Speech aspiration will also require more constant, consistent and carefully made policy; as research by City and Guilds and the Institute for Governance, have pointed out vocational education has been the subject of frequent and short lived changes in policy direction which have not allowed reforms to take root and become understood and accepted by employers, young people, employers and education providers. Despite the inherent uncertainty implicit in a hung Parliament, it is critical that policy in this area has longevity and a consistent direction of travel.”

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