Election 2024: Apprenticeships top of education priority list

But poll suggests support for Conservative and Labour plans for apprenticeships have limited backing

But poll suggests support for Conservative and Labour plans for apprenticeships have limited backing

12 Jun 2024, 11:38

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Increasing the number of apprenticeships is the joint most important education issue for voters in the lead-up to the election, a new poll suggests.

But there is limited backing for the apprenticeship policies put forward by both main parties.

And while a third of voters believe the quality of FE colleges has got worse since 2010, investing more in colleges ranked almost last.

The poll, carried out by Public First, was taken from a nationally representative group of 2,011 adults.

It found that boosting the number of all-age apprenticeships ranked top of the priority list when it comes to education, joint with Labour’s pledge to hire 6,500 more teachers – both scoring a net positive score of 30 per cent.

However, the Conservatives’ plan to remove funding for “low quality” degrees to pay for 100,000 more apprenticeships by 2029 scored just 5 per cent.

Labour’s plan to widen the apprenticeship levy to fund other forms of training also proved to be low on the priority list, scoring -5 per cent.

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Simply increasing the number of apprenticeships was particularly popular among swing voters, beating recruitment of teachers to first place with 39 per cent popularity.

Of the spending priorities for post-18 education, offering more apprenticeships was top of the list, with 44 per cent support.

Abolishing single-phrase Ofsted judgments in favour of a report card achieved a score of -9%, while the Advanced British Standard sat at -6 per cent.

Public First said it used a technique called ‘MaxDiff’ to ask respondents to compare a randomly chosen pair of policies, without telling them which party they came from, to create ranked lists that show which are “relatively popular”.

When asked which public services the government should spend more money on, apprenticeships came 11th out of 20, with only one in ten voters placing it in their top three spending areas. Top of the list was the NHS, while schools placed seventh.

Further education colleges and adult learning was the least popular out of the list of areas the group wanted to see more money spent on, with only 4 per cent prioritising it.

The poll also asked respondents to say whether they thought the quality of different types of education setting had increased or decreased since the Conservatives came to power.

About a third of respondents said they thought the quality of further education colleges has got somewhat or much worse, with only 15 per cent feeling they had got better.

Meg Price, senior policy manager at Public First, said: “Despite apprenticeships themselves being hugely popular, especially with key voters, changes to apprenticeship policy and FE funding is not a top priority for most. 

“This comes as no surprise given the broader challenges facing the country – such as NHS waiting times and the cost of living – as well as the higher profile of challenges facing the education sector more broadly such as the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

“Despite FE funding not being seen as a priority, aspects of the FE offer, like training and courses for working-age adults, was declared a priority by 31 per cent of people.”

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One comment

  1. Impartial

    I wonder how many of the people polled know that Colleges deliver fewer than 20% of apprenticeship starts for instance.

    It’s a shame that half baked policy ideas made it as far as manifesto pledges. There’s a real danger in designing policy to win votes, it usually ends up with bad policy and/or broken pledges.