From education to employment

The Independent Group: What does this mean for FE & Apprenticeships?

They say a week is a long time in politics, well this has been a very interesting week!

The Independent Group was established with an original group of seven MP’s on the 18th February 2019. The Independent Group is now a group of 11 MP’s who have quit the Labour and Conservative parties to form what is now the joint fourth largest group in Parliament.

Let’s put this into context, The Independent Group now has the same level of representation in parliament as the Liberal Democrats. Within a week.

You know the Lib Dems who were a part of the Coalition Government with the Conservative and Liberal Democrats. This is massive!

The Independent Group at the moment (as there is rumour of more MP’s looking to join them), has one more member (or 10% more sway) than the DUP. Although small in number, we have seen how a small political group such as the DUP has so far had a very influential say in dictating certain policies in Brexit.

The Independent Group is made up, so far, of eight ex-Labour MPs and three ex-Conservatives. The Independent Group is not a political party, so far. So it has no manifesto and no leader, at this stage.

With all of this in mind, what could the Independent Group mean for FE and Apprenticeships and should the sector be actively engaging the group to give more influence to the sector?

How is the FE, Apprenticeship and Employability sector actively engaging these 11 MP’s to ‘get in early’ so to speak to help shape their manifesto if and when they become a political party? Surely this is a unique opportunity?

We asked the sector bodies for a response to The Independent Group, many declined to comment at this early stage in their formation.

Does this raise a wider question, how much connection or influence in Westminster does our sector have? How should we go about making more ‘friends’ in Westminster?

Surely each MP will love and be proud of their local FE college, their specialist Independent Providers, or do we as a sector forget to engage our local MP’s to showcase the life-changing work from the sector… do we only appear on their radar when we are asking for more funding?

We asked the sector main bodies for a response to the formation of the Independent Group, and at the time of writing only the AoC gave a comment and it was a great comment.

I also understand the lack of comments, is it that other areas of the sector are busily arranging meetings with the group and don’t have anything to say as yet as that meeting over coffee hasn’t happened yet?

The Independent group is less than a week old, it is not a political party yet, it is half term and half the nation has been suffering from the flu, but is that just me offering excuses for the rest of the sector not appearing to get involved?

Here is a great comment from the David Corke, Director of Policy at the Association of Colleges:

David Corke 100x100“The newly formed Independent Group has a great chance to put the importance of education at the forefront of its agenda.

“As we urge ever closer to leaving the European Union, there is an urgent need to focus on having the correct skills and productivity needed for a successful economy. In particular, we need to ensure that all parts of the education system are adequately funding, particularly colleges, who have had their budgets slashed by up to 30% over the last decade.

“The new group should also look at how apprenticeships are implemented. It is vital that everyone, irrespective of their background, has the opportunity to get on and learn the practical skills needed to get on the career ladder, as well as continuing to train and retrain over the course of their lives.”

Gavin O’Meara, Chief Executive and Head of Digital Media, FE News and FE Careers

What are your views?

Should the sector be engaging the Independent Group before they potentially become a political party?

How should the sector be engaging more local MP’s and politicians to showcase the positive life-changing work completed every day in the sector? 

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