David Gallagher, NCFE

New @NCFE and @CForLearning report called 'Revolutionary Forces' urges Government to ensure that the plans outlined in the forthcoming post-16 white paper are sufficiently flexible to meet the immense changes faced by the UK economy throughout the 2020s

Government recommendations for FE need to be sufficiently flexible to meet the revolutionary changes bearing down on the UK says new report.

The government needs to take immediate action to enable the post-16 education, skills and employment sector to respond to economic recession and mass unemployment, and implement long-term reforms to improve the post-16 education and skills system for economic and social renewal, according to a paper published today.

‘Revolutionary Forces’, is a joint commission of expert articles from education and skills organisations, NCFE and Campaign for Learning (CfL). It urges Government to ensure that the plans outlined in the forthcoming post-16 white paper are sufficiently flexible to meet the immense changes faced by the UK economy throughout the 2020s.

Promising to provide a ‘vision’ for the further education sector and hailed by Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson as ‘revolutionary’; the white paper has been hotly anticipated by the FE sector since it was announced in April 2020. Three months on however, the scope of the paper is still unknown.

Anticipating a comprehensive document which will cover all aspects of post-16 education, including further and higher education, apprenticeships and adult and community learning, the discussion paper from NCFE and CfL features a collection of articles penned by experts from the FE sector, as well as labour market economics, employment and mental health. The authors explore some of the key challenges facing the nation throughout the 2020s which the DfE needs to take into consideration when writing their recommendations.

In the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is easy to forget that there were wider revolutionary forces at work before the virus outbreak. The virus has simply brought issues such as Brexit, automation, longer working lives, and poor UK productivity into even sharper focus. The FE sector needs the revolutionary post-16 white paper that has been promised now more than ever.

David Gallagher 100x100Commenting on the paper’s findings, David Gallagher, Chief Executive at NCFE, said:

“We find ourselves in unprecedented times. While the government rightly prioritised short term fixes to support the economy through the height of the Coronavirus outbreak, now is the time where we need to start looking forward at what needs to be done to restabilise the economy, taking all factors into account.

“The challenge facing the Government is twofold. With the imminent threat of job losses, mass unemployment and huge shifts in how the UK does business in light of both Covid-19 and our impending withdrawal from the European Union, the Government needs to act fast to enable the education and skills sector to respond to meet the needs of employers, adults and young people in the 2020s. At the same time, in order for the sector to play an active role in the longer term economic recovery effort, assurances must be made to improve the post-16 education and skills system.


“Our new discussion paper in partnership with the Campaign for Learning draws on expertise from across the sector to explore the policies that we hope to see introduced as part of the FE white paper which will provide the flexibility required to ensure learner success against a backdrop of uncertainty.”

Julia Wright 100x100Julia Wright, National Director at Campaign for Learning, added:

"There are dramatic and profound forces affecting our economy and society. Some are long-term, others like Covid-19 rapid. Together, they present a situation that requires radical thinking and swift action.

“As our experts show, post-16 education and skills has an integral role to play in the country’s economic recovery. Training and retraining will help people navigate employment so they stay in work and improve their prospects. Educational opportunities will help people get on, particularly full-time education for young people who are likely to have fewer options in the jobs market and be at risk of long-term unemployment. We hope the issues raised by our authors inform the discussion and thinking for the post-16 white paper."

Gillian Keegan100x100Reacting to the paper, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan MP, commented:

“We welcome the findings of “Revolutionary Forces” as we develop these important reforms. We are absolutely committed to levelling up opportunity across the country, and will continue to do all we can to make sure no-one is left behind as a result of coronavirus.

“Further Education will play a vital role in delivering the high-quality skills employers need and that will support our economic recovery. We will announce more detail in the White Paper this autumn.”

Toby Perkins 100x100Shadow Minister for Apprentices and Lifelong Learning, Toby Perkins MP, added:

“This is a crucial time for the Further Education sector. It is vital we come together and act now to ensure its recovery and stability for years to come.

“I welcome the contribution to the debate provided by NCFE’s latest paper, which contains expert input and a comprehensive overview from across the sector, providing invaluable insight.

“This report adds to the growing call for a serious Government response that recognises the role that FE can play in the recovery.

“The Government’s skills package must safeguard the sector and ensure it is equipped to provide the courses required to enable learners of all ages to adapt to the post COVID opportunities and challenges that exist.”

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