Jeremy Corbyn will expand on his party’s plans to offer free lifelong education through a National Education Service later today, at the Association of Colleges’ annual conference.

Held at the ICC in Birmingham with FE Week as the premier media partner, this is one of the key events in the FE calendar, and this year takes place over two days, on November 14 to 15, and the Labour leader is one of the headline speakers.

He is due to address delegates at 4.15pm this afternoon, during a keynote session also featuring Oftsed chief inspector Amanda Spielman.

“Increasing productivity is not about squeezing out every last drop of energy from working people,” he will say. “It’s about investing in people’s lives, investing in their education, their skills and their futures – as well as the infrastructure and technologies of the future.

“This is why a National Education Service will allow anybody to retrain and upskill at any point in their lives,” he will pledge.

Mr Corbyn will add a commitment to adult education, and “never writing people off, but giving people fresh opportunities right the way through their lives”, embodies one of his party’s fundamental principles: opportunity for the many not the few.

He will demand that chancellor Philip Hammond’s upcoming budget must provide investment in skills-related infrastructure, new technologies and people, and also warn of a recruitment crisis in colleges and support better pay for teachers.

AoC boss David Hughes, who will also be addressing delegates this afternoon, expressed regret back in September for only being able to offer staff a one-per-cent payrise.

Nevertheless, he is delighted that the conference will feature Mr Corbyn, who will also take the opportunity during his visit to the nation’s second largest city to drop into South and City College Birmingham.

“It is great news that we have the leader of the opposition coming to speak to delegates for the first time,” he has said.

“It’s another important recognition of the crucial roles which colleges play, for the economy, for communities, families, young people and adults.”

FE Week will, as ever, report live throughout the event, and write a supplement dedicated to all the main events and announcements, sponsored by NOCN.

Anne Milton, the minister for apprenticeships and skills, AoC chair Carole Stott, and author, journalist and broadcaster Matthew Syed, will address delegates this morning.

The AoC awards ceremony this evening will include the prestigious AoC Beacon Awards and Student of the Year Award in addition to the new Student Video of the Year Award.

Keynote speakers tomorrow morning will be AoC president Dr Alison Birkinshaw OBE, chief executive of the Office for Students Nicola Dandridge, and science writer, broadcaster and comedian Timandra Harkness.

The afternoon session will see a panel of learners with National Union for Students’ vice president for FE, Emily Chapman, speaking about “what has FE done for our learners?”, and a speech by Labour’s former press chief Alastair Campbell.


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