King’s Speech 2023: What was promised for FE and skills

Government pledges to introduce Advanced British Standard and increase apprenticeships

Government pledges to introduce Advanced British Standard and increase apprenticeships

The government pledged to introduce the proposed Advanced British Standard (ABS) and increase apprenticeships in the King’s speech today.

In his first address for the state opening of Parliament, the monarch said his ministers would “strengthen education for the long term” through the introduction of the ABS, which seeks to replace A-levels and T Levels by combining them into one single qualification.

The King’s speech sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the next year.

The government is expected to launch a consultation on the ABS this month, with a proposed white paper in 2024.

But the reforms are dependent on the Conservatives winning the next election, and if implemented would take ten years to deliver in full.

Today’s speech, which was the first by a King in over 70 years, also briefly outlined proposals tabled to increase starts in high quality apprenticeships and reduce the number of young people enrolling onto “poor quality” university degrees.

The King said: “My ministers will strengthen education for the long term. Steps will be taken to ensure young people have the knowledge and skills to succeed through the introduction of the Advanced British Standard that will bring technical and academic roots into a single qualification.

“Proposals will be implemented to reduce the number of young people studying poor quality university degrees and increase the number undertaking high quality apprenticeships.”

The ABS was first proposed earlier last month by the prime minister and will take around a decade to fully roll out.

Meanwhile, education secretary Gillian Keegan announced in July plans to restrict student numbers on higher education courses with poor student outcomes.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said education has “felt on the margins” of policymaking for some time and that has “not changed today” after the King’s speech.

He added: “Bringing technical and academic qualifications together is worthwhile but the Advanced British Standard is not going to exist for 10 years, if at all. It is not the right priority at a time when the education profession is under so much pressure.

“There remains no urgency to solve teacher shortages and funding shortfalls that are already impacting schools and colleges and call into question the viability of extending teaching in the way the Advanced British Standard would require.”

David Hughes, chief executive of Association of Colleges, said it was “good to see” that the government “recognises the importance of education and skills to the nation”. 

He added that the principles of the Advanced British Standard – more teaching time for 16 to 18-year-olds, a broader curriculum, and higher prestige for technical routes – are “good”, but warned there are “immediate concerns about the reputation risk for T Levels and the risks of too rapidly defunding existing level 3 qualifications”.

The House of Commons is scheduled to debate aspects of the legislative proposals from the King’s Speech later today.

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