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Further Education

Volume 598: debated on Monday 20 July 2015

The Government’s productivity plan: “Fixing the foundations” sets out the Government’s ambition for a professional and technical education system that provides individuals with clear, high-quality routes to employment, and that supports the Government’s overall fiscal and economic objectives.

These objectives can only delivered by strong institutions, which have the high status and specialism required to deliver credible routes to employment and progression in the labour market. Providers also need to be more efficient to ensure institutional stability, and to make best use of scarce public resources.

As joint Minister for Skills for BIS and the Department for Education, I am today publishing a policy statement setting out how we will facilitate a restructuring of the post-16 education and training sector, through a series of area-based reviews of provision.

The reviews, which will focus on FE and sixth-form colleges, will be led by steering groups consisting of chairs of governors, LEPs and local authorities, FE and sixth-form college commissioners and regional schools commissioners. Under their oversight, the reviews will undertake analysis, consider options and propose solutions. Colleges remain independent institutions, and I expect governing bodies to use the process to make informed decisions on structures to support the best outcomes for learners and employers, and long-term stability.

We will actively encourage local authorities and LEPs to drive these pieces of work in partnership with the commissioners. Where combined authorities with devolution arrangements are in place we would expect them to take lead.

This approach will enable a transition towards fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers, and more effective collaboration across institution types. A critical aspect will be to create greater specialisation, with the establishment of institutions that are genuine centres of expertise, able to support sustained progression in professional and technical disciplines, alongside excellence in other fundamental areas—such as English and maths. This will ensure that we have the right capacity to provide good education and training for our young people across England, and will include the creation of a new network of prestigious institutes of technology, and national colleges to deliver high standard provision at levels 3, 4 and 5.

We have already piloted the area based approach in Norfolk and Suffolk and in Nottingham. I am announcing today that the first full area-based review will take place in Birmingham. The Birmingham review will have an initial focus on FE colleges in Birmingham city and Solihull, but will have scope to consider a broader geography and range of provision where relevant. We will take forward the review in partnership with individual institutions, the local authorities and the LEP.

I welcome views on this policy statement, and will issue fuller guidance on the process for reviews in the coming weeks.

The report is available online at www.gov.uk.

Attachments can be viewed online at: http://www. parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2015-07-20/HCWS152/

[HCWS152]