Learning for Life is the Liberal Democrats’ policy paper for education and skills. Lady Brinton explains some of its key points.

The Liberal Democrats believe education and skills are critical for both individual opportunity and the overall economic performance of the country.

Our new policy on this, which was recently passed at our conference, confirms our commitment to ending the twin track vocational/academic divide, and ensuring everyone has access to excellent education and training that is right for them, with clearly signposted pathways to different types and levels of learning.

Young people must get the best impartial information, advice and guidance on the options available, so we propose a streamlined and independent system to help students make the right choices, not just from 13, but starting in primary school.

Year 6 pupils should have a taste of FE and higher education, to give them a passion for their future lives before they transfer to secondary school.

We proposed free college meals for students up to 18 and want to extend the pupil premium in to FE for those receiving free lunches.

The student premium will allow a college to provide specific support for students, for both learning support and appropriate grants, to cover the costs of specific equipment and books.

These students will also be eligible for free or subsidised travel for those starting a full-time course before their 18th birthday.

We want all students up to 18 years old to continue to study literacy/numeracy, even if they have a GCSE at A* to C.

We propose a cross-party commission to review the funding of re-skilling and lifelong learning”

For those who find GCSEs difficult, we need more tailored literacy/numeracy courses to support their wider courses. This will mean more tutors will have to be trained and more tailored courses developed.

We believe unemployment should not be an option for 18 to 24-year-olds. We want a real focus of resources and energy on people from this age group who struggle to gain qualifications or sustainable jobs.

We will combine the funding spent on this group from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the youth justice system to provide them with individualised, concentrated and positive options in training, employment and support.

Never again should a student be pulled off a course with a key qualification by a Job Centre Plus adviser who decided it was time for them to have an interview, or a short term work contract.

We want to expand the number of quality apprenticeships and traineeships and want a real focus on small and medium-sized enterprises increasing the number of apprentices they take on.

We also want to expand the number of full-time two-year foundation degrees or HNDs in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

We expect much of this to be delivered in FE colleges as in the past.

Liberal Democrats see learning extending throughout life.

For those aged over 25, we want to see free tuition for a first level two, and income contingent loans for a first level three or four covering the full fee costs, and the full write-off of all fee level three loans for access courses where an adult progresses into higher education.

We propose a cross-party commission to review the funding of re-skilling and lifelong learning to look at arrangements for employer, individual and state contributions to training and arrangements for individual saving for learning, along with the possible creation of lifelong learning accounts.

Learning for Life recognises the excellence that exists in the FE sector, and we believe also develops that further and will bring true parity of esteem, giving every student a chance to get on in life.

Lady Brinton chair of the Liberal Democrats’ education and skills policy working group

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