Milton DOES want collaboration between colleges and private providers, DfE confirms

The government has confirmed that the skills minister wants collaboration, not competition, between colleges and private providers.

Eyebrows were raised on Friday when the Department for Education published Anne Milton’s speech from the Association of Colleges conference, as it claimed it was “exactly as delivered” but contradicted what she actually told delegates.

“There is the apprenticeship levy money out there in the market – you need to show what you can do on training and be real competition for the independent training provider market,” it said.

At conference, the minister (pictured) changed the speech and offered a different message which was warmly welcomed by the likes of the AELP.

“I want to see more and more apprenticeship training being offered by colleges and where possible, possibly in collaboration with independent training providers,” she said (see video below provided by the AoC).

When asked by FE Week for clarification on what it is the minister actually wants, collaboration or competition, the DfE confirmed the speech on was incorrectly labelled as checked against delivery and that the minister did mean that she wants to see more collaboration.

A spokesperson added that the minister wants to make people aware that there will be £2.5 billion by 2020 in the apprenticeships budget and colleges should see this as an opportunity and sometimes this could be in collaboration with private providers.


FE Week has listened back to the delivered speech and found that the minister followed it nearly word for word, but missed out a couple of sentences, including the line about encouraging competition.

This view from Ms Milton makes a change to former skills minister Nick Bole’s message to the AoC conference three years ago in which he told the audience to stop letting private providers “nick your lunch”.

The new stance was met with fanfare from AELP boss Mark Dawe, who in his weekly members’ newsletter last week said: “The other great change in language was we didn’t hear any of the previous nonsense about ‘eating your lunch’ – instead there was a clear message about collaboration with ITPs – I nearly fell off my very comfy ICC seat!”

The DfE said that it might take some time for the department to update Ms Milton’s speech on, so for clarity, FE Week spared 20 minutes to do it for you:


Good morning ladies and gentleman. I’m going to have to do today what I hate doing and that is I’m not going to have time for questions.

Unfortunately we were 15 minutes into Birmingham New Street and I have to leave here at half past 10 on the dot.

I have been here for 15 minutes but after those remarks I am sure that channel 4 are now going to run lots of items on further education, I don’t recall them ever having done so in the past but I am sure we will see some in the future.

Anyway it is a huge pleasure to be here for the second year. I and everyone in my department value the support, the collaboration and the critical friend that you continue to provide across all of our work in FE. You remain a much valued partner to me and the department – and long may this continue.

It is also great to be back in the West Midlands, where the legacy of all our industrial innovators is woven into the very fabric of the place. Colleges here, such as Walsall and Dudley College of Technology are among those who will be continuing to this industrial legacy as the first to offer T Levels, a once in a lifetime change to technical education.

All of your colleges are crucibles of change within your communities. You have a vital role to play in making sure that all people, of all ages, whatever their background, have the skills they need for jobs that give them a start in life. A start in life, a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th chance to kick-start a new career.

Just a quick update on recent developments, we are publishing the outcomes of the College Staff Survey today, which greatly improves the information we have on teachers and leaders in FE colleges in England. It provides vital insights into the experiences, qualifications and expectations of those who teach and train in this sector. The survey showed that 82% of principals and 73% of leaders had worked in industry before their existing role. And two thirds of teachers had worked in industry before joining the FE sector a huge asset to FE. We want to build on this with the £5m in our Taking Teaching Further programme, which will support for up to 150 industry professionals to become FE teachers, and fund up to 40 projects.

We also now I feel I should mention have a new Apprenticeship Feedback Tool. By inviting employers to give feedback on apprenticeship training providers, and publishing this data in real time. This will give us early warning of where there are problems and which training providers are doing well. So far, we have contacted around 9,500 employers and we’ve had well over 4,000 responses, of which nearly 90% rated their provider good or excellent and nearly a third were actually excellent. There is still room for improvement and we will be rolling this out to apprentices as well.

Alongside the Post 18 Review which I’m sure all of your would have heard about, we are also looking at the funding and resilience of the FE Sector, the uptake of L4/5 qualifications, and the crucial part that FE plays and could play in those qualifications. All of those are critical landmarks for the future of FE. We need to make sure that FE has the structures, the funding and the support it needs.

We have seen significant achievements in the work of the FE Commissioner and his team. With 29 Diagnostic Assessments taking place – so that we reach Colleges before any greater challenge hits. And a 45% reduction in formal interventions compared with last year, Richard and his team are investing a huge amount of time and expertise to continually strengthen the sector and I would like to thank them for the work that they do.

Since 2016, we have allocated over £330m of funding to support major college restructuring, following the Area Review process. We are now considering the final applications for the Restructuring Facility – and we expect the final figure for restructuring funding to rise significantly before the end of the programme.

The Strategic College Improvement Fund had its pilot phase earlier in June this year, which saw 14 colleges receive grants totalling over £2m, and we have just launched our next phase earlier this month; providing £15m in funding to help colleges build awareness of good practice, foster mutual learning and really push forward rapid action to improve quality in their provision. I don’t think there has not been a moment in my 40 odd years in the public sector where I have not heard the plea to share best practice. We really need to make this happen. As David Corke, the director of policy at the AoC, mentioned, “it is important to continue to share best practice and look at the ways we can continually drive up quality within the sector”. We really need to do that showing best practice and reality and let’s get on and do more of it.

We have also announced 21 Centres for Excellence across the country, two of which are here in the West Midlands. We are investing over £40 million over the next five years to build on the success of the Maths Hubs model in schools, adapting it to improve the quality of teaching post-16.

We know that our ambitions for top quality further and vocational education are not going to be cheap. And I am very aware of the financial challenges you have faced. There is £2.5 billion being spent on Apprenticeships by 2020 and the introduction of T Levels, so there are significant opportunities ahead to strengthen the impact you have on your local communities.

We will also be announcing changes to the operation of the register of apprenticeship training providers shortly. We want to improve the quality of apprenticeship training and are to strengthen the application process and raise the bar for entry.

The register will be re-opening for applications and will remain open, it won’t close, enabling new providers to apply as and when they are ready at the time they want to. Existing providers on the register, including FE colleges, I’m afraid will be required to reapply over the next 12 months. But I want to see more and more apprenticeship training being offered by colleges and where possible, possibly in collaboration with independent training providers.

And then there’s T Levels. The introduction of T Levels will change the delivery and perception of technical education and raise it to a new level. I am hugely grateful for the energy and passion that colleges are bringing to the design and delivery of these reforms. We are providing £38 million in capital to support the initial roll-out of T Levels from September 2020 which will be used to improve the quality of facilities and equipment that will be used to deliver T Levels. T Levels are a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform technical education and give young people the skills they need. They will play a significant role in giving employers the skilled workforce they need. This is a huge opportunity to raise the profile of further and technical education and most importantly, the role that you all play in that.

We are investing up to £20m over the two years to March 2020 to support providers as they prepare for the introduction of T Levels. As part of this £20m, we have announced the investment of £8m in a new bespoke T Level Professional Development offer, led by the Education and Training Foundation, to help staff prepare for the change and successfully deliver the first T Levels. This will be vital training to build on the expertise we currently have, so we are ready for the future.

But T Levels apart never forget that apprenticeship levy money that I mentioned.

Both apprenticeship training and T Levels will only succeed if delivered by high quality, resilient institutions. The one common feature of every successful institution is high quality leadership and governance and that is true across the whole education sector. Of course, you know that better than I do how important it is, but it does bears repeating.

All too often, I sign off requests for emergency support, I see colleges in severe financial constraints that could have been avoided if they had a strong board and leadership. Well-meaning Principals, well-meaning Governors, they may be. But in this day and age, robust, financial management and leadership is the route to a successful College. I am therefore pleased that we are launching the College Governance Guide, which will set out clearly, in one place, what we expect of governors, as well as offering recommended practice.

We are also about to launch a new Learning and Development programme, to support chairs, governors and clerks. I am very grateful to the Education and Training Foundation for their partnership in building upon the successes of previous programmes at the Oxford Said Business School. For example, over 3,800 FE teachers have attended other ETF enhancement programmes designed to improve their knowledge and importantly confidence in teaching maths and GCSE English. This is a major investment in sector leadership. It is important to me, as I’m sure it is to you, and I hope you will take advantage of it.

The National Leaders of Further Education represent some of the best FE leaders and they, together with their teams, have been supporting improvement in more than 30 colleges. I urge you to also use them, learn from them, and share that learning further where you can.

Today, I think really importantly we are publishing a report on The Contribution of FE to social mobility that tracks individuals through post-16 learning and into the workplace. And it shows the critical role that high-quality Further Education plays in helping those who come from more disadvantaged backgrounds and areas achieve success.

Shared best practice, collaboration or partnership, working together – within and between colleges, all play an important role in improving further education. And critically play an important role in improving social mobility.

Social Mobility is a grade used by politicians, think-tanks, the media and is liberally sprinkled through most reports and submissions that I read. For me, social mobility means that people are not bound by the constraints of their birth. That where you are born, where you live, who you know or who you are should have no adverse impact on where you get to. Everybody should be able to succeed.

I would like to pay tribute to David Hughes and the AoC for the work they do representing FE Colleges, they really do a fantastic job. AoC’s campaign “Love our Colleges” was a huge success. But in this world, where everyone vies for tax payers’ money, a one-off campaign is not enough on its own. You must get your leadership and governance right; you must use your money wisely, making realistic assessments of your business model; you must make good use of the money available and you must make use of the resources we put your way. Then only then can I and you together secure the case for additional funding.

I overheard a conversation recently where someone was asking what FE was. The reply came back that FE wasn’t schools and it wasn’t university. And that reply said so much- FE squashed between schools and universities. Sandwiched between the two sectors we hear so much from in education. Sandwiched between the two sectors that represent the majority of the reporting in the media.

But I would like to see a positive vision for FE. I want FE Colleges to stand on their own ground, proud of what they do and proud of the incredible results they achieve. Effective, efficient and focussed and with an unique offer.

Every single person in this room today will have changed someone’s life. Turned around the fortunes, sometimes against the odds- of someone who possibly didn’t get the best start in their life or in their education.

I have the best job in Government – because rarely a day goes by that I don’t hear one of those inspirational stories. So my ask of you because I can’t take questions today, is to help me to help you turn people’s dreams and hopes into reality and together we can be proud of the very unique and special contribution that FE colleges make. Thank you.

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