Skills to be at the heart of social mobility plan

Skills to be at the heart of social mobility plan

FE and skills will have a major role to play in a new social mobility action plan being launched by the education secretary this morning.

The plan, which will be unveiled by Justine Greening at the Reform social mobility conference in London today, outlines four social mobility “ambitions” – two of which focus on post-16 education and training.

It promises to offer “real choice at post-16” and “rewarding careers for all” as part of its overarching aim to focus on the areas of the country that have been left behind.

“Today I’m launching a plan which puts improving social mobility at the heart of all our education policy,” Ms Greening is expected to say.

“The reality is that in modern Britain, where you start too often decides where you finish.

“This is a defining challenge for us as a nation. We have talent spread evenly across this great country – the problem is that opportunity is not.

“And for some people it’s a whole lifespan of missed opportunities.”

The new plan, she is expected to say, will “provide a structure and an architecture to enable us to work in a more coordinated way” to tackle the social mobility challenge.

Her four ambitions will encompass important stages in people’s education.

The first two, “closing the word gap” and “closing the attainment gap”, will focus on early years and schools.

“Real choice at post-16”, the third, will involve “creating world-class technical education, backed by half a billion pounds in investment, and increasing the options for all young people regardless of their background”.

The fourth, “rewarding careers for all”, promises to boost “skills and confidence to make the leap from education to work” and raise “career aspirations”.

Ms Greening will say she wants to build a “new type of partnership with businesses to improve advice, information and experiences for young people”.

The Social Mobility Commission’s annual state of the nation report, published last month, raised concerns that the apprenticeship levy would adversely affect social mobility.

It warned that the levy could “lead to disproportionate levels of apprenticeship spend in cities, where many big businesses are located” which may “widen the disparity in available opportunities between urban and rural areas”.

It recommended the government target “any unused apprenticeship levy funds at regions with fewer high-level apprenticeships”.

The Skills Commission, an influential group of MPs and education and business leaders, launched a major inquiry in August into the impact of the government’s apprenticeship reforms on disadvantaged young people.

Update at 9.30am: 

The action plan has now been published, including the following announcements that will be of interest to the sector:

  • Employers to take part in regional skills advisory panels, which will help ensure that the local provision of skills, and the delivery of skills policy in local areas, responds to local employer needs
  • Introduction of an entitlement to full funding for basic digital courses. The government has said it will do this several times before, so we have asked the DfE if it can now confirm when this will be introduced from
  • Employers to be incentivised to “provide quality apprenticeships through the apprenticeship levy” – though its not clear how this would be done, for example by raising the levy or lowering the £3m threshold. FE Week is enquiring about this
  • T-level transition year to be piloted to “test different offers to make sure we are providing the best possible options to all young people” – but no details yet. FE Week has requested further information

The report made the following admission about long-term under-investment in FE:

“Historically we have not done enough to invest in FE, which is the sector responsible for delivering training from basic skills to postgraduate degrees, including the bulk of technical education.

“The hard work and dedication of teachers and college leaders has not been matched by successive governments who have overlooked further education.

“This is a major problem given that the sector disproportionately serves students from disadvantaged backgrounds and challenging areas.”