From education to employment

2021 Autumn Budget: Five key takeaways

Michael Lemin

Rishi Sunak’s Budget signals a significant step-change for the Government, with skills and education forming the backbone of the Autumn Spending Review.  

The Chancellor opened proceedings in the Chamber heralding the need for investment in a more innovative, high skills economy. For NCFE, an organisation that has been helping people reach their full potential through hands-on learning for over 170-years, Sunak’s warm words were welcome. But, dubbed the Prosecco Budget, are his promises all pop and no fizz?

Having analysed the little red book, it would appear there is absolutely room for optimism. With lots of fresh investment pledged for T Levels, skills bootcamps, early years, SEND and Multiply, a new Government-led numeracy programme, there are lots of positives.

Careful consideration over the implementation of any new programme is a must and NCFE would be happy to work alongside the Department from Education to ensure the best possible outcomes for learners and the economy.

Here are our five key takeaways for what the Budget means for further education, skilling up and bouncing back economically.

  1. Schools funding will return to 2010 levels

The Chancellor announced that schools are to get an extra £4.7bn by 2024-25, with school funding set to return to 2010 levels in real terms – an equivalent per pupil cash increase of £1,500.

Attracting and retaining world-class educators is vital to the success of our education system and to delivering transformational learning experiences. Our partnership with WorldSkills UK has seen us develop the Centre of Excellence – a revolutionary training programme that has helping technical education educators to excel at its core.

With recruitment and retention of teachers a growing issue, we welcome this investment and hope to see this funding used to support educators across the country.

  1. T Levels to continue their trailblazing path

It’s great to see the Government continue to champion T Levels – qualifications that represent a seismic change to the landscape of learning for 16–19-year-olds.

The Chancellor’s promise of a £1.6bn cash investment over three years will allow centres to spend more hours with T Level students, as well as to help more students undertake work placements so that they have the essential skills needed to enter the workplace with the skills that employers value.

Having recently won the contracts for three more T Level qualifications, we’re hearing from students and educators directly about the many benefits and opportunities that they bring – and we are excited to welcome more learners to our T Levels. NCFE is fully committed to T Levels continuing their trailblazing path and succeeding as a gold standard world-class qualification.

  1. Early opportunities can’t afford to be missed

As quoted by the Chancellor in the Spending Review, “the evidence is compelling that the first 1,001 days of a child’s life are the most important”. In support of this, a £500m package will be delivered to support a network of “family hubs”, which serve parents and children across the UK.

This recognises that making early interventions in the lives of families can help to narrow the disadvantage gap and provides opportunities to link families with other support services.

We hope to see this funding go towards mental health, family relationships and antenatal services, which will reap benefits to be seen decades down the line.

  1. Lifelong learning is a core and significant message

The proposed increase (in real terms) to adult skills funding is significant and most welcome. The importance of lifelong learning cannot be understated, and additional investment can only be a real positive after a challenging decade for the sector.

The news of expanding the Lifetime Skills Guarantee so that more adults can access their first Level 3 course free of charge is great news. However, a gap does still exist here. Adults holding Level 3 qualifications who wish to switch sectors, or who must reskill to get back into employment, still face too many barriers to accessing learning. Greater consideration must be given to retraining needs – especially as it is now accepted that people do not generally stay in one profession over their working lives.

Whilst the scaling up of skills bootcamps is positive investment in the sector, there is still little evidence on their effectiveness, having been rapidly rolled out as part of the National Skills Fund. We would urge the Government to consider introducing credentials that participants can take away. Although bootcamp participants are guaranteed a job interview, this doesn’t mean a guaranteed job. It is important that individuals have a credential that they can use as currency to demonstrate the skills, knowledge and behaviours they’ve gained to potential employers.

  1. Free numeracy courses for those without a maths GCSE

Continuing to focus on the theme of skills, the Government also announced the development of a £560m programme, “Multiply” – a digital platform that will help adults and businesses to improve numeracy skills.

Any support to address numeracy is a good thing, as this is a longstanding issue in England. According to the Learning and Work Institute, it is essential we take action.

NCFE is already committed to re-engaging adults in improving their numeracy skills, from our bite-sized maths qualifications that help build learner confidence, to our Functional Skills Maths that offers full flexibility to learners and an alternative route to GCSE. These are combined with our Skills Builder online resource tool that helps to plug those skills gaps and allows accessible online learning.

Movements need collaborators, and the Government would be wise to harness the expertise and knowledge in the sector to support the development and implementation of the Multiply programme. We believe that pooling our resources will ensure that Multiply has the best chance of success, incorporating elements from existing sector provision that we know works

Overall, the Chancellor’s spending plan offers a lot of good news but when it comes to education you can never over-invest. From early years, further education and lifelong learning, giving people the skills to navigate their futures will only serve to benefit society and the economy.

NCFE is optimistic about the economic review and the Government’s commitment to skills. Ultimately time will tell how this Budget is remembered and we welcome any opportunities to collaborate with the Government and other stakeholders to ensure it has the best possible chance of success.

Related Articles