Johnson government a thumbs up for FE investment but sad to lose Marsden and Milton

13 Dec 2019, 9:04

The huge 80 seat majority and return of the Conservative Party to government now puts the spotlight on Boris Johnson’s FE and skills manifesto pledges.

Significant sums of additional funding for the sector will, we are promised, form part of the government’s next budget.

From 2021 there will be, the manifesto says, a National Skills Fund with £600 million of “new funding on top of existing skills funding”, a total of “£3 billion over the parliament.”

In addition, close to £2 billion in capital funding has been ear-marked for an ‘estate upgrade’ over the next five years, starting with £194 million in 2021.

Yes, more can and should be done to reverse the real terms cuts to post-16 funding rates and overall fall in adult education spending.

And, it remains unclear how the impending apprenticeship budget overspend will be avoided.

But the manifesto commitment to nearly £5bn in new funding over the next parliament shows Boris Johnson was serious when he said from the dispatch box in July that he would make further education and skills “a priority for this government”.

And last month the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson could not have been clearer when he told FE Week our sector would be “at the heart of what we’re going to do.”

So after years of cuts to FE and skills funding under the David Cameron and then Theresa May governments, these Johnson pledges to invest again can’t come soon enough.

Far less positive for the sector has been the loss of Gordon Marsden.

Marsden has been an incredibly hard working shadow minister, at the heart of Labour’s education team in seven of the last nine years, promoting the cause for both further and higher education.

He has also invested considerable time explaining Labour policies at our events and to our journalists since the day we launched in 2011, for which I am grateful.

Another champion of FE that sadly won’t be returning to Parliament is the former Conservative skills minister and independent candidate Anne Milton.

Milton fought hard for further education but, and through no fault of her own, she was mostly ignored within a Theresa May led government and Treasury that refused to listen.

Johnson has promised he will lead a government that is now listening to FE and as our readers have come to expect, we will be watching and scrutinising the detail of announcements over the coming months.

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