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The last party conferences before a general election are always built upon a particular theme.

With the helm of the country up for grabs, the season can often be about last minute, ill-thought-through announcements, huge gaps in policy and unanswered questions about how, who and where.

This year’s circus has been no exception to the rule, and FE and skills has in some instances been left more confused as to the policies of the three main political parties than enlightened.

This year was FE Week’s, and indeed my, first foray into the coverage of all party conferences and I suspect it won’t be our last. FE has benefited from being in the spotlight this year, but it’s our job to make sure that doesn’t fade once the election has been fought in May.

In the first few pages of this supplement, we will focus on the various announcements of policy to have come out of the conferences, with coverage in chronological order. From Labour’s pledge to bring apprenticeships and university starts into line to David Cameron’s pledge to create 1m new apprenticeships and Vince Cable’s apprenticeship minimum wage rise, we have broken it all down for you, with analysis and reaction, on pages three, four and five.

As well as reporting on all the breaking news from the conference settings of Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, FE Week also ran a fringe event at each of the three conferences in partnership with OCR, and reports from each of these events can be found between pages six and 13.

Finally, we gave the last word to the politicians themselves, with expert pieces contributed by Skills Minister Nick Boles, his Shadow Liam Byrne and a rare insight from Business Secretary Vince Cable, together on pages 14 and 15 along with analysis from resident FE Week expert Mick Fletcher.

Hopefully we can help you wade through the posturing, empty promises and rhetoric and give you a picture of what life in FE and skill might really be like under following next May’s election.