Whoever says the summer holidays are a time for people who work in education to kick back and relax has obviously never worked in education, particularly education policy.
In the fortnight before Parliament went on its summer recess, a whole host of inquiries and consultations were launched to keep sector wonks and leaders busy — and more are on the way.
If you do find yourself reflecting on the state of education and employment policy over the summer, there are plenty of opportunities to put forward your views in the form of a response to a government consultation or select committee inquiry.
Here, I outline some of these opportunities and include links where you can go to respond.
This is arguably the most important consultation for the sector over the summer. While we get our heads around the in-year cuts announced a couple of weeks ago and measures like the apprenticeship levy announced in the Summer Budget, we also need to look ahead and once again make the case for investment in our sector because the Spending Review will cover government spending at least to end of the Parliament in 2020.
We know from the Budget that unprotected government departments — including the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the 16 to 19 budget in the Department for Education and all of FE and higher education within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) — need to find £20bn of savings in order to meet the government’s ambition to achieve a surplus in 2019/20.
The Treasury has published guidance on how to respond by the September 4 deadline.
This consultation from BIS is the government’s way of seeking views on proposals to prevent providers calling programmes ‘apprenticeships’ that don’t fit the statutory definition. This is all part of the government’s ambition to raise and protect the status of apprenticeships alongside replacing frameworks with standards and reforming the apprenticeship funding system. Proposals include the introduction of an offence with penalties for providers that are found to be offering apprenticeship programmes that breach the statutory definition.
There are only four questions and the deadline is August 19.
There’s a new House of Commons Select Committee — the Women and Equalities Committee, and its first inquiry is on how much progress has been made, and what is yet to be done, to achieve equality for transgender people.
You might have successful policies in place to recruit and support staff and learners who are transgender, or have partnerships, projects or campaigns that embed transgender equality in the curriculum or on campus and in the workplace.
Maybe you recently updated your anti-bullying policy, or have something to say based on the experience with transgender learners in navigating through FE and into work. This inquiry is a great opportunity to share your successes or challenges on this agenda.
The deadline for responses is August 21.
In advance of the DWP retendering process for Welfare to Work contracts, the DWP select committee is exploring options for possible reform. If you have views on deficiencies in the Work Programme — whether or not provision is accessible or relevant or have ideas on how the system can be improved — here is your chance to say so before the deadline on August 28.
The Government Equalities Office has published a 24-question online survey on how to implement the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to require large employers to publish gender pay information. If you have 250 or more employees, this will affect you. It also seeks views on action that can be taken to inspire women, modernise workplaces and support older working women.
The deadline for this is September 6.
The BIS select committee, under the chairship of former FE minister Iain Wright MP, is looking at the extent to which people think the government has got its assessment of, and plans for, the UK’s lagging productivity right. You’ll have your own views about the role of the FE and skills system in boosting productivity and how the government’s policies help or hinder it. Here, you can say so, along with views you have on policies within the Productivity Plan, like the apprenticeships levy or increasing university tuition fees with high quality teaching.
The deadline for responses is September 10.
This one is interesting to keep an eye on, even if you can’t submit evidence yourself. The House of Lords’ Social Mobility Committee is conducting an inquiry in to the experiences of young people who are not (yes, not) considered not in education, employment or training. They believe there’s been a lot of focus on young people considered Neet and want to look at young people outside this definition. Still with me? Specifically, they’re after evidence of what is, or should be, on offer for young people aged 14 to 24 who enter employment in terms of learning opportunities they have access to. They’re specifically not looking at people who follow the A-level to full-time higher education route — more, how well the school (and college) to work route provides good employment and social mobility outcomes. The deadline is September 14.
When the Chancellor delivered the Summer Budget, he announced that there would be a consultation on freezing the student loan repayment threshold at £21,000 for five years. The consultation is very much in the context of higher education tuition fee loans, but it’s important to remember that this threshold is also in place for 24+ Advanced Learning Loan-funded learners. It’s therefore important that there’s good representation from our side of the sector by the October 14 deadline.
Implementing the apprenticeship levy
A new compulsory levy on large employers to fund apprenticeships will be in place in 2017. How this works in practice, what constitutes as a large employer and how the funds are distributed across employers in England and the rest of the UK will be part of a BIS consultation due to be launched later in the year — so keep an eye out.