Monday 09-01-2017 - 11:30
Today the remaining stages of the FE Bill will take place in parliament. Here’s some information about what’s happened so far and how I’m ensuring that my FE membership get the best possible deal.
The FE Bill was first announced back in November and today is the final stage of its route through the House of Commons before it moves to the House of Lords.
In the last couple of months I’ve been working hard to ensure that your voices have been heard every step of the way.
In November, I gave oral evidence to the Bill Committee in parliament about what I thought the bill would mean for learners (you can watch me from 14:56:17).
That same week we submitted amendments about the parts of the Bill we wanted to change. We suggested seven amendments around the themes of:
- Guaranteeing that learners have representation on the Institute for Apprenticeships and on the panels that decide the 15 routes;
- Ensuring that the appropriate (people) fully assess the impact of a college closure on learners, particularly for care leavers and young parents;
- Making sure that there is high quality careers information, advice and guidance that schools, colleges and local authorities must follow to comply with the law.
All but one of our suggestions were debated, and our concerns about the other were covered in the remarks of various MPs.
While the government didn’t accept any of these proposals in the Committee stage, we did receive some promising, public commitments from the Minister of State for Education, Robert Halfon.
Representation for learners on the Institute for Apprenticeships
During the debates the minister made it clear that he wasn’t keen on giving apprentices or learners a space on the board. His reasons were that board members will need considerable experience, as they will have massive governance responsibility.
Basically, the same old arguments we hear about student governors in colleges.
But, he did say that there would be a panel of apprentices which would report directly to the board and would decide for itself which issues to focus on, as well as challenging and making recommendation to the board.
We will still be pushing for representation on the board itself, as well as ensuring that the board takes the views of the panel seriously, but it’s good that we have pushed the minister into creating these panels - there were no obvious mechanisms for apprentices and learners voice before, but now there will be.
Protection for learners if a college runs out of money and closes
Another thing we asked for was protection for learners if an FE provider went bust, including an assessment of how a closure would specifically impact on a learner’s education. The minster rejected our calls for this assessment, suggesting that it would create unnecessary bureaucracy. Instead he said he expects the person in charge of the closure to consider this anyway. So whilst our amendment wasn’t accepted into the bill, we now have this expectation on record.
The most important thing the minster said in response to our concerns about the impact on learners is that if a college closed there would be funds available if their travel costs increase, meaning that learners won’t have to bear the cost of being transferred to another college.
Next stages of the bill
Remember I said only six of seven amendments had been debated? That’s because our final amendment will be discussed today. It’s about careers information, advice and guidance and we are calling for a statutory Careers Strategy, meaning that the Government would legally have to be much clearer about what they’re doing to make IAG better.
It’s important that we continue to put pressure on the government to introduce this into the bill. At the moment their opinions on IAG are a little unclear. One day they are pushing for greater recognition of University Technical Colleges, the next they are backtracking on their promise of equal careers advice. Confused? Me too. A Careers Strategy would help to stop this. They’ve been promising one for a year; we think it’s long overdue.
After today, the bill will move to its next stage in the House of Lords and I will continue to fight for what is best for my membership.
Watch this space…