As the sun rises on 2019, the FE and skills sector is expecting another year of significant policy development.
And in our first edition of the year, senior reporter Jude Burke takes a look at what to look out for in eight of the biggest policy areas.
Here are my hot takes:
1. Apprenticeship reform and funding: still no date yet for implementing the small employer contribution reduction to 5 per cent and the conflicting messages from the ESFA and IfA over budget forecasts is concerning
2. T-level tender: is implementation still on track for contracts to go to the single awarding organisations in March? Look out for any tension here between the secretary of state Damian Hinds and the permanent secretary Jonathan Slater when they go before the education select committee on Wednesday
3. College insolvency regime: could a community really lose their local college this year? Sadly, without ongoing bailouts and a rise in the funding base rates, this seems likely
4. Adult education budget devolution: sounds great but from August it is likely to be an unfair postcode lottery and expensive bureaucratic nightmare in practice
5. Post-18 funding review: a real opportunity to put FE funding on more of an equal footing with HE at the higher qualification levels, but I fear the government’s response to the interim report will disappoint
6. Institutes of Technology: first announced in 2015 and we wait with great anticipation to find out where they will be. Whilst wanting to welcome the £170 million capital investment, will they, like National Colleges, have little impact?
7. Ofsted’s new common inspection framework: just how will the single framework interact with mega-colleges alongside thousands of microproviders? All to be revealed next week
8. Treasury spending review: all to play for and plenty of lobbying energy still needed to secure a rise in the 16-18 funding rate, unchanged since 2013
And Brexit? Well like Jude in our cartoon this week, I would need a psychic to know if it will happen, let alone the impact on the FE and skills sector after March.
What I can be sure of is that FE Week will be here reporting on every twist, turn, high and low this year.
So stay tuned – because if nothing else it won’t be boring!