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PM pledges major reforms to post-18 education
by Flora Robertson, 3/10/20

From next April, adults with no Level Three qualifications will be able to undertake college courses for free.

Speaking from a college on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new lifetime skills guarantee intended to boost productivity and reduce unemployment in the UK post Covid-19. 

Amongst other new schemes, the government will be funding technical qualifications for adults in order to increase their employability. 

In his speech, he said that this should help people to “change jobs and find work in the burgeoning new sectors that this country is creating”.

In the same speech he reiterated his intention to double the current investment in science and technology to £22 billion a year in the next four years, to allow developing sectors to grow.

Johnson echoed the government’s previous warning that not all jobs will be able to be saved. 

The pandemic has greatly depleted areas of the economy, demonstrating the importance of professionals being able to retrain. 

One of the worst hit industries in the UK is air transport which, according to the Office for National statistics, experienced negative 92.3 per cent growth from February 2020 to July 2020. 

As the service industry shrinks, Johnson highlights the increasing availability of jobs in the IT sector, an opportunity which hopefully following the expansion of the government provided “digital bootcamps” to four additional areas, more individuals should be able to benefit from.

Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, those over the age of 23 were unable to access free Level Three qualifications.

Additionally, in order to improve access to post-18 education, reform to the student loans system was explained. 

Increased flexibility should provide access to four years of access to a student loan referred to as a “flexible lifelong loan”. 

Specific FE courses deemed to be sufficiently valuable by employers will also be allowed access to the student finance system, allowing these courses to compete with University courses and potentially reducing widespread bias against technical courses.

By increasing parity between further and higher education in terms of funding, Universities and Further education should be brought closer according to Johnson.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commented on Tuesday’s announcement saying that “what the government proposes is simply a mix of reheated old policies and funding that won’t be available until April”. 

She added that “By then many workers could have been out of work for nearly a year, and the Tories still think that they will need to take out loans to get the training they will need to get back into work.”

This multifaceted approach to the reform of the adult education comes after Sajid Javid’s 2019 vow to provide £400 million additional funding solely for the further education of 16-19-year-olds, not adult learners. 

This promised investment of £1.5 billion into colleges comes as the most recent survey by the Learning and Work institute shows that adult participation in learning in 2019 was at its lowest in the history of the survey.

Image: Alan Levine via Flickr