FE white paper pushed back to 2021, ESFA director suggests



The much-anticipated FE white paper might not appear until next year, the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s chief executive has revealed.

Eileen Milner, taking questions from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee this morning, was quizzed by chair Meg Hillier on when the white paper would be published.

“You have talked about how important the FE sector is, but the white paper is pretty critical,” said Hillier, so would it be published “this year, this financial year, this calendar year, next six months?”

“We would certainly hope this financial year,” Milner answered.

The Department for Education, including education secretary Gavin Williamson, have long said the “revolutionary” white paper would be published in the autumn of 2020.

Asked yesterday whether it was still the plan to publish the paper in 2020, the Department for Education said it was working to publish “this year”. FE Week has asked them to clarify whether this is calendar or financial.

The department’s permanent secretary Susan Acland-Hood, also speaking at the hearing, implied the sector would not look dramatically different after the white paper, saying there would be a “continuum” of  what the department is doing already, “rather than a moment where for the first time ever we’re doing something strategic on the FE sector.”

She said it had been difficult for education secretary Gavin Williamson to set out how he would make FE a focus of his department, through such measures as the FE white paper, until the spending review this week.

“It was working towards making sure we had the right things in the spending review, then setting out the strategy that followed on from that.”



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