The first draft of the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill has officially been laid before parliament.

It outlines the legislation behind the government’s planned reforms for FE, including local skills improvements plans, strengthened intervention powers for the education secretary, and a flexible lifelong loans system.

There are also new regulations for independent training providers, FE teacher training, and an expanded role for the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

You can read the 38-page document here and explanatory notes here.

FE Week has the pulled out the key things you need to know.


‘Duty’ to have ‘regard’ for local skills improvement plans

A statutory underpinning has been placed on local skills improvement plans, introducing a power for the Secretary of State for Education to designate employer representative bodies to lead the development of the plans.

A “duty” has been placed on all colleges and training providers to co-operate in the development of and then “have regard” to the plans.

There will also be a duty introduced for all FE providers to review how well the education or training they provider meets local needs, and assess what action the institution might take to ensure it is best placed to meet local needs.

Each college and provider will be required to publish their review on their website.


New powers to force mergers

Government plans to extend the statutory intervention powers currently applicable to colleges under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.

This measure will enable the Secretary of State for Education to intervene where there has been a failure to “meet local needs”, and to direct structural change such as mergers in order to secure improvement.

It is not clear at this stage how the government will determine when a college is not meeting local needs.

Read FE Week’s full story on these powers here.


New list of private providers which can restrict subcontracting

A new list of independent training providers will be launched to “indicate which providers have met conditions that are considered to prevent or mitigate risks associated with the disorderly exit of a provider”.

It will be separate from the register of apprenticeship training providers and require ITPs to register.

Any provider not on the list will not be granted funding agreements or be allowed to subcontract with another provider who is on the list.

Conditions to get on the list may relate to whether a provider has a student support plan; insurance cover; willingness to give access to information about the owners; and those relating to the relevant provider taking action specified in directions given by the Secretary of State.

The government said there were 64 unplanned provider exits in the academic year 2019/20, and there are delays in the current system finding a new provider which affects learner experiences.

This legislation is hoped to address gaps in these requirements.



Additional functions for IfATE

A new job is being given to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to define and approve new categories of technical qualifications that relate to employer-led standards and occupations in different ways.

The quango will be required to cooperate with Ofqual to create a “single approval gateway” for technical qualifications.

The institute’s new powers will allow it to charge a fee as part of the qualification approval process and introduce a moratorium on the approval of further qualifications where there is evidence of proliferation.

It will also have a requirement to review approved qualifications, withdrawing their approval where they are no longer performing as expected.


Introduce a ‘lifelong loan entitlement’

The government plans to introduce a new loans system that allows people to study more flexibly and space out their studies across their lifetime.

Named the “lifelong loan entitlement”, learners will be given four years’ worth of loan funding and be able to transfer credits between FE and HE providers. The goal is to encourage more modular provision and part-time study.

A full consulation on this new entitlement is expected to run this year.


Regulations to improve FE teacher training

The government describes the quality of initial teacher training (ITT) as an essential ingredient in the FE sector.

An “enabling clause” to bring about required changes and improvements to the current system if they cannot be achieved through non-legislative means has been handed to the education secretary in the Bill.

Regulations may include making provision for accrediting an institution as a provider of specified ITT of FE courses; accrediting specified courses; prohibiting the provision of specified ITT FE courses by an institution.


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