From education to employment

State Opening of Parliament 2022: What to expect from educational reforms

Mark Dawe, the Skills Network

This week’s State Opening of Parliament brought talks of levelling up opportunities for all and a reform to education, offering promises of helping “every child fulfil their potential wherever they live, raising standards and improving the quality of schools and higher education”.

With the Queen’s pre-prepared speech announcing 38 Bills of Parliament, two are set to bring change in education and skills.

What are the new Bills?

The Schools Bill

The Schools Bill is being introduced to “level up opportunity by delivering a stronger and more highly performing school system that works for every child, regardless of where they live.”

According the Queen’s Speech Lobby Pack the main benefits of the bill are:

  • Supporting more schools to become academies in strong trusts by removing barriers to conversion for faith schools and grammar schools and bringing schools into the academy sector where this is requested by local authorities.
  • Enabling better, more targeted, and more consistent multi-agency support to the children and families who need it most across England by making necessary reforms to the attendance legal framework. The Bill will require schools to publish an attendance policy and will put attendance guidance on a statutory footing, making roles and responsibilities clearer.
  • Implementing a direct National Funding Formula, so that each mainstream school will be allocated funding on the same basis, wherever it is in the country, and every child will be given the same opportunities, based on a consistent assessment of their needs.
  • Establishing ‘children not in school’ registers, as well as creating a duty on local authorities to provide support to home educating families. This will provide accurate data to help identify children who are not receiving a safe or suitable full-time education, and to enable support to be offered to interested parents of registered children.
  • Improving safeguarding by expanding registration requirements for independent educational institutions, enhancing enforcement, and working with Ofsted to expand investigatory powers.
  • Strengthening the current teacher misconduct regime to include more educational institutions and increasing powers to investigate individuals who commit misconduct and enact appropriate regulatory discipline procedures.

The Higher Education Bill

Likewise, The Higher Education Bill is being introduced to “ensure that our post-18 education system promotes real social mobility, helping students onto pathways in which they can excel, and is financially sustainable. This will help support people get the skills they need to meet their career aspirations and to help grow the economy.”

The benefits to the Higher Education Bill include:

  • Ensuring people are supported to get the skills they need throughout their life. The Bill will enable the introduction of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement, a new and flexible way of providing loan support for post-18 study. This will provide individuals with a loan entitlement equivalent to four years of post-18 education (£37,000 in today’s fees) that they can use over their lifetime for a wider range of studies, including shorter and technical courses.
  • Fulfilling the manifesto commitment to tackle uncontrolled growth of low-quality courses.
  • Ensuring that appropriate fee limits can be applied more flexibly to higher education study within the Lifelong Loan Entitlement and that they can be effectively regulated.
  • Subject to the conclusion of the higher education reform consultation: o setting minimum qualification requirements for a person living in England to be eligible to get student finance support to enter higher education, helping to ensure students can pursue the best post-18 education and training options for them by taking pathways through which they can excel; and o fulfilling the manifesto commitment to tackle uncontrolled growth of low[1]quality courses by taking specific powers to control numbers of students entering higher education at specific providers in England.

Mark Dawe, CEO at The Skills Network comments: “It’s great to finally see equal funding for every school pupil, with The Governments’ focus on equal opportunities welcomed.

“Despite this, we must now focus on equal opportunity through progression routes, offering advice, guidance and incentives into skills and apprenticeship programmes and not just the traditional academic route.

“With the lifelong loan entitlement now falling into the hands of the individual to determine who best meets their education and skills needs, questions remain around the Government’s reluctance to take the same approach for Level 3 learners.

“An out-dated funding stream that channels through the institution needs reform, and it’s time for the Government to allow the employer and individual to determine what and who can provide the best learning experience for them.

“Additionally, there is a surprising lack of acknowledgement on the significant  proportion of school leavers and adults entering the workplace without the most basic skills required to start a career across all sectors of the economy. Level 2 is levelling up, not degree level learning.

“Whether it be working in care, construction or catering, skills that support entrance into the workplace and encourage a sustainable income are fundamental and a key stepping stone as we move towards a society with higher levels of skills and employment.

“As we continue to navigate a difficult economic period, the role of education and skills development will be key to creating an adaptable and ever-evolving workforce fit for our rapidly changing world.”

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