We have today introduced the Technical and Further Education Bill.
My ambition is to drive long needed improvements in the quality of technical education in this country—mirroring the impact of this Government’s reforms to the quality of academic education. The reforms in this Bill are fundamental to the Government’s vision of ensuring that all people, irrespective of their background, have a level playing field to fulfil their potential and have high quality routes to secure not only their own futures but also the skills that British business needs.
Following implementation of the current Government programme of area reviews for the FE sector—which are designed to give institutions the opportunity to put themselves on a secure and sustainable financial footing—the Bill will also reflect the important principle of student protection, already set out in the Higher Education and Research Bill currently before Parliament, through the introduction of an effective insolvency regime for further education and sixth form colleges. The Bill we are introducing today ensures that, for the first time, suitable protections are available for students in further education, and this follows a public consultation, during July and August 2016, on introducing such a regime which saw broad support.
Beyond the measures in the Bill, this Government have a fundamental mission of social reform to deliver our vision of an education system that works for everyone. Education is at the heart of our ambition to make Britain a true meritocracy. That is why we have put responsibility for early years, schools, Further and Higher Education, adult skills and apprenticeships in one single Department. In light of these changes and the Department for Education’s existing two Bills in Parliament—the Children and Social Work Bill and the Higher Education and Research Bill—we have rightly reflected on our strategic priorities and the proposals for education legislation put forward at the time of the Queen’s Speech. I am clear that the Technical and Further Education Bill will enable us to get on with transforming technical education in this country while we continue to develop proposals for a school system that works for everyone.
The “Schools that work for everyone” consultation, which I announced in an oral statement to the House on 12 September, remains ongoing. This consultation asks how we can create more great school places in more parts of the country—including selective places for local areas that want them—and asks our independent schools, universities and faith schools to play their part in improving the quality of our state-funded schools. In addition, my Department has renewed its focus on ensuring everything we do drives towards improving social mobility with an emphasis on not just the most disadvantaged families but also on those that are just about managing. Our ambition remains that all schools should benefit from the freedom and autonomy that academy status brings. Our focus, however, is on building capacity in the system and encouraging schools to convert voluntarily. No changes to legislation are required for these purposes and therefore we do not require wider education legislation in this Session to make progress on our ambitious education agenda.
The Technical and Further Education Bill takes forward the Government’s ambition to streamline technical education to ensure clear routes into skilled employment. These reforms will put employers at the heart of the skills system, enabling them to drive the skills they need and value the most. Supporting individuals to a lifetime of sustained skilled employment will not only help to boost productivity and the growth of our economy in line with our industrial strategy but it will also deliver on the Government’s vision for an economy that works for all, not just the privileged few. The measures in the Bill build on the progress the Government have already made by investing in high quality apprenticeships and they deliver against the commitments the Government made in the Post-16 Skills Plan published earlier this year.