The next Labour government will reform further education to put the interests of students and colleges first, as part of a National Education Service, according to Angela Rayner MP, the Shadow Education Secretary.
Speaking at the Association of Colleges annual conference Angela announced a series of reforms to further education.
Labour will end the GCSE Maths and English funding condition, while ensuring that all young people are able to achieve Maths and English at Level 2 in a way that is appropriate for them. This will include the opportunity for them to pursue other courses that enables them to attain level 2 qualifications in English and Maths, such as functional skills.
The current system, where colleges are required to study Maths/English GCSE if they do not hold a GCSE grade 9-4 or A*-C is failing to improve grades for many students while creating serious issues for colleges, which have faced steep cuts since 2010.
She also committed to reforming the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, placing at least one apprentice or FE student representative on the board of the Institute, requiring it to report annually on the quality of apprenticeships, and ensuring that its aims explicitly include widening access and participation.
The move will give students a voice on the regulatory body for apprenticeships and further education, creating parity with the student representative on the board of the Office for Students, as well as putting quality and widening access at the heart of Labour’s further education reforms.
She also made it clear that FE would have representation in the regulator regime for higher education, following the government’s failure to appoint anyone from a FE background to the board of the OfS.
Further and adult education have faced real terms funding cuts of over £3 billion since 2010.
Angela Rayner said “Labour will reform the system to put learners first, focusing on improving the quality of further education, widening access to these opportunities, and ensuring every learner is supported.
“Far too many apprentices are not getting the high-quality training they deserve and far too many people aren’t being supported to access apprenticeships in the first place. So a Labour Government would require the Institute for Apprenticeships to report to Parliament on the quality of completed apprenticeships, as well as requiring them to have due regard for widening access and participation.
“We will also ensure that the voice of apprentices and further education learners are heard within the formal structures of the IfA. We will formalise the apprentice panel, guaranteeing that its recommendations to the Institute’s board and the board’s responses are published. And we will put an apprentice or FE learner on the board.
“The former Skills Minister refused this during the establishment of the IfA, arguing that an FE representative would not speak for all, and that they would have to deal with issues like corporate governance and press scrutiny. But the Office for Students has student representation on the board. It is only right and fair that we afford FE learners and apprentices the same rights and opportunities as HE students.
“And on the Office for Students, we know that crucial representation from the FE sector is missing. Hundreds of colleges provide undergraduate and postgraduate courses and one in 10 study HE in an FE environment, so we will rectify the mistake of the Tories and ensure that any university regulator has FE representation too.
“We won’t just make sure that FE has a voice. We will also listen. Recently, bodies from across the sector, including the Association of Colleges, have raised concerns about students in both the 16-18 and 19-25 age ranges who are being forced to re-sit English and Maths GCSEs over and over again due to ESFA funding requirements, even where other equivalent qualifications are available. So I can announce today that we have listened and we have heard. A Labour government would end that requirement.”