Lib Dems manifesto 2024: The FE pledges

Party plans to review FE funding including college VAT exemption, a widened apprenticeship levy and ‘lifelong skills grants’ of at least £5k

Party plans to review FE funding including college VAT exemption, a widened apprenticeship levy and ‘lifelong skills grants’ of at least £5k

10 Jun 2024, 13:46

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The Liberal Democrats will consider exempting colleges from VAT, the party has said in its manifesto that reiterates pledges to give every adult at least £5,000 towards training and widening the apprenticeship levy.

The manifesto confirmed several other policies already outlined by the party, such as increasing college funding per pupil above the yearly rate of inflation and creating a new ‘lifelong skills grant’ – previously dubbed a ‘skills wallet’ – for every adult.

Its only new pledge for FE appeared to be a “review” of further education funding to see whether colleges could be exempted from VAT, which would benefit them by an estimated £200 million per year.

The party has said its higher education and lifelong learning policies will cost an extra £1.5 billion by 2028.

‘For a Fair Deal’

Speaking this morning, Lib Dems leader Ed Davey said the ‘For a Fair Deal’ manifesto will ensure every child goes “good school” and has “real opportunities” to fulfil their potential.

The manifesto pledges to fix the “skills and recruitment crisis” by investing in education and training, increasing the availability of apprenticeships and “strengthening” careers advice.

The lifelong skills grant is a Lib Dem pledge that dates back to 2019 under the name “skills wallets”, of making grants worth £10,000 available to every adult to spend on education and training over thirty years.

However, the party has now halved this grant to £5,000, with an aim to increase it to £10,000 “when the public finances allow”.

Increase college funding

Increasing college funding rates per pupil “above inflation” each year is another continued pledge, alongside a tutoring guarantee for every disadvantaged pupil and a ‘young people’s premium’ for disadvantaged learners aged 16 to 18.

Details are limited of how much they party would invest in replacing and repairing “crumbling” college buildings.

On the apprenticeships, the party continues to take the same line as Labour in pledging to replace the “broken” levy with a “broader and more flexible” skills and training levy.

The Lib Dems claim that scrapping the lower apprenticeship rate and guaranteeing all apprentices are paid “at least” the national minimum wage would help boost the take up of the roles.

However, further details of how the party would encourage businesses to “invest in training” remain unclear.

The party also plans to reform Ofsted inspections and end single-word judgements, as well as pledging to “urgently” establish a commission on broadening the curriculum and making qualifications at 16 and 18 “fit for the 21stcentury”.

It said: “This will draw on best practice such as the International Baccalaureate and ensure children learn core skills such as critical thinking, verbal reasoning and creativity.”

Here’s a roundup of the Lib Dem’s pledges on skills and further education:

  • Replace the apprenticeship levy with a broader and more flexible skills and training levy
  • Scrap the lower apprentice rate and ensure they are paid at least the National Minimum Wage
  • Create Lifelong Skills Grants of at least £5,000 for adults to spend on education and training throughout their lives
  • Develop National Colleges as centres of expertise in high-level vocational skills of expertise for key sectors, such as renewable energy
  • Expand vocational training such as foundation degrees, higher national diplomas and higher national certificates to solve skills gaps
  • Increase school and college funding per pupil above the rate of inflation every year
  • Invest in new buildings and clear the backlog of repairs
  • Introduce a ‘Tutoring Guarantee’ for every disadvantaged pupil who needs extra support
  • Review further education funding, including the option of exempting colleges from VAT
  • Introduce a Young People’s Premium, extending Pupil Premium funding to disadvantaged young people aged 16-18
  • An industrial strategy that focuses on skills the UK economy will need such as renewables, digital and bioscience
  • Tackle the productivity crisis by encouraging businesses to invest in training, take up digital technologies and become more energy efficient
  • Reform Ofsted inspections and end single-word judgements to give parents get a “clear picture” of the strengths and weaknesses of each school, and schools get the guidance and support they need to improve
  • Establish a commission to broaden the curriculum and “make qualifications at 16 and 18 fit for the 21st century”, drawing on “best practice such as the International Baccalaureate” and ensuring children learn “core skills such as critical thinking, verbal reasoning and creativity”

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