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Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden’s response to the Post-16 Skills Plan

Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden provides some top line thoughts to the Post-16 Skills Plan that was released today:

“We welcome the detailed and thoughtful proposals of the Sainsbury Panel and at last after much dithering the Government is taking up a new approach to the wilderness that has so far characterised their skills policy, particularly in the technical and vocational areas. But the devil is in the detail and in the plan the Government has brought forward in response there are many unanswered and indeed unfunded questions.”

–           –    If the opportunity is to be real for students at 16 and beyond to switch between HE and Vocational routes with bridging options then why is this Skills Plan not directly linked with the HE White Paper? There are only two paragraphs on the latter in the entire Skills Plan

–          With the existing cuts across the BIS department, both funding and staffing levels, where will resources to implement these changes come from?

–          Whilst we agree streamlining young people into a limited number (15) of high-quality routes make sense, there must be some opportunities to change and facilitate for fast moving developments, particularly in digital and technical skills.

–          What is the rationale for apparently arbitrarily making the last four proposed routes only apprenticeship driven? There is a danger this may put off older people, particularly in social care, and it could be seen simply as an easy way for the Government to meet their 3 apprenticeship start target by 2020.

–          The Skills Plan makes virtually no reference to the role of professional routes with a general failure to address or assign them across the whole plan. The plan must not neglect the contribution or work of professional bodies.

–          The timetable to suggest that colleges can swing into action with the new routes from 2018/19, following delays from area reviews with potential downsizing and potential threats to their recruitment from the economic effects of Brexit, are wildly optimistic.

–          There are already grave concerns about the structural readiness and capacity of the Institute for Apprenticeships, alongside cuts within BIS and the SFA. What additional resources will Government give them if they are to take on responsibility for technical education?

–          There is very little in the entire skills plan looking at the implications of devo-max, not just for adult skills but potentially for devolved funding over apprenticeships etc.

–          The Government’s proposals for two year college programmes are very vague indeed about how adequate off-site practical work provision will be achieved. But this is an absolutely crucial demand from the employers who Government want to put at the heart of this Skills system.

 –          We are concerned that the Skills Plan is very thin on how SEND students will fit into these reforms. This is particularly worrying as some SEND students, especially with autism, are very successful in progressing through degrees and apprenticeships, particularly in creative and art subjects.

–          The Skills Plan consistently talks about the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education being employer-led, with college based learning being decided by employer groups, but FE Colleges and other Training Providers need to be an essential component in taking forward the roll-out and delivery of standards and assessments.

–          For the Skills Plan to be successful, there also needs to be a broader EBACC pre 16 to give breadth to technical and creative skills

–          Government claims of adequate funding in the Skills Plan are misleading. Loans offered to students are not the same as the funding via loans which is actually taken up. The Government is currently failing very badly on take-up, as an example, there was less than 50% uptake of the post-24 Advanced Learning Loan.

–          The Government’s get-out clause which is that they will only be able to implement all proposals unequivocally but only where that is possible with current budget restraints must raise questions about whether they will be unable to honour the thrust of the Sainsbury review.


 Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow BIS & Education Minister


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