The Tories are to stay in power for another five years – so what will that mean for further education? By Kate Parker
A £3bn ‘national skills fund’
The Tories pledged to invest £600 million a year into the fund, which it insists is “new funding on top of existing skills funding”. It expects this would be for a range of courses, including apprenticeships.
In the manifesto, it says: “And our new £3 billion National Skills Fund, alongside other major investment in skills and training and our reforms to high-skilled immigration, will ensure that businesses can find and hire the workers they need.”
£1.8bn for college buildings
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced in November that the Conservative Party plans to invest £1.8 billion in a further education college rebuilding programme.
Mr Johnson said that the money would, over a five-year period, be used to make sure the entire FE college estate is in “good” – or category B – condition by refurbishing and redeveloping existing facilities and purchasing industry-standard equipment.
The manifesto says: “Just as universities have been transformed by significant long-term investment over the last few decades, we need to make sure local colleges are equally excellent places for people to learn. We are therefore investing almost £2 billion to upgrade the entire further education college estate.”
It also states that, as well as encouraging investment in physical building and equipment, they will help employers invest in skills and look at how to improve the working of the apprenticeship levy.
The Augar review
The manifesto says that the Augar review made “thoughtful recommendations on tuition fee levels, the balance of funding between universities, further education and apprenticeships and adult learning” – and pledged to “consider them carefully”.
On adult education – which featured heavily in both Labour and Lib Dems’ plans – the Conservative party pledged to “invest in local adult education and require the Office for Students to look at universities’ success in increasing access across all ages, not just young people entering full-time undergraduate degrees.”
Although it’s not mentioned in the manifesto, the Conservatives did also announce plans to create a dedicated Prison Education Service focused on work-based training and skills in November.
The policy is part of a programme of prison reform that the party says would “give better chances to offenders once they have been released, double the number of prisoners in employment six weeks after release and reduce reoffending”.
Under a Conservative government, the new Prison Education Service would oversee education and skills training across all jails. It would build upon the new prison education framework issued in April 2019 and “provide a new focus across the whole system on raising educational standards of all prisoners serving sentences in England and Wales”.
Kate Parker is a junior FE reporterTwitter: @KateeParker