In response to the 2021 Spending Review, our Director of Education & Skills, Lisa Capper MBE, said: “Today’s funding package for post-16 education and skills is a welcome start, but only makes up a fraction of the underfunding of the further education system over the last decade. Instead, we need an improved funding package that caters for all our young people, acknowledging the barriers to participation in education and skills faced by so many and targeting resources at those most in need. Otherwise, we risk an entire generation falling through the cracks, without the skills and the ladder of opportunity that they need to move forward with their lives.
“The UK is facing a skills crisis. We are seeing record low levels of education attainment at 11, 16 and 19, and importantly in critical levelling-up areas, as well as record labour market vacancies. A strong focus on post-16 education and skills could offer the answer to these problems. Yet, the fact that this package fails to return post-16 further education spending to pre-2010 levels shows how much more needs to be done.
“The Government’s stated ambition to upskill the UK’s workforce is much needed, but the route map to get there is wrong. Today’s announcement was sadly more of a re-hashing of Government commitments to expand its Level 3 (the equivalent of A Levels) adults offer – through the National Skills Fund – which fails to recognise the needs of those working towards lower-level qualifications and the ladder of opportunity they need .
“Almost one in five people do not achieve Level 2, the equivalent of five good GCSEs by the age of 19. If the Government is fully funding people to take a Level 3 qualification to get back into training, this must also be extended to a good range of Level 2 qualifications and below.
“Focusing funding on level 3 qualifications fails to address the crisis in Level 2 attainment and further entrenches a system dominated by inequality. Those without a Level 2 by 19 will fall further behind and suffer reduced employment opportunities, whereas those at Level 3 and above will prosper creating a two-track education and skills system.
“Today was a missed opportunity for the Government to recognise that the current further education and skills system continues to penalise disadvantaged young people.
“Despite today’s disappointing offer from the Government, we will be continuing to fight for better opportunities for those most disadvantaged in the current education and skills system. Nacro are calling for an extension to the Pupil Premium that is available for schools to be extended to those in need at post 16 as a way of addressing educational inequalities and ensure all can reach for good jobs and higher skills and higher wages.We will also push the importance of giving young people options and opportunities for progression and we argue against the Government approach to defund vital vocational and technical qualifications at lower levels, announced in September. This is particularly important in the period before the Government’s preferred pathway T-levels have been properly established. We also want assurance that those without GCSEs in English and maths aren’t locked out of taking T-Levels.
“The Government should be ensuring that a wide range of pathways exist for all young people, regardless of background, through further education and skills, training or directly into employment.”