What we want from today's House of Lords further education Bill debate

Wednesday 01-02-2017 - 08:00

There’s a lot of change planned for the FE sector and it starts with the Technical and Further Education Bill. MPs have had their say on it already and today it’s the House of Lords’ turn.

The Technical and Further Education Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords today (Wednesday 1 Friday). This will be the first time the Bill is debated in the House of Lords, having passed through the House of Commons at the end of last year.

Peers will debate the general principles of the Bill before voting on whether it proceeds to Committee stage, where the Bill will then be examined line-by-line.

The Bill outlines the government’s plans to extend the role of the Institute of Apprenticeships to include technical education, put in place student protections and insolvency procedures for further education institutions, and ensure FE providers continue to submit relevant data to the government when FE and skills becomes increasingly devolved.

Whilst technical and further education have been subject to close government attention since 2015, the landscape for the sector is precarious and vulnerable. Partly in response, the government has published a ‘Post-16 Skills Plan’, based on the Sainsbury Review, which outlines reforms to technical education that aspire to ensure the technical and further education sector can meet the UKs skills needs.

The Technical and Further Education Bill will create new laws to put parts of this Skills Plan into practice. However, for a sector that is facing such uncertainty and instability, the Bill must do more to tackle the impacts that this landscape has on learners and apprentices.

NUS believes this Bill gives an invaluable opportunity to build towards this aim. However, to ensure this Bill works for the UK’s learners and apprentices, we believe the Bill must address three clear priorities as it goes through the House of Lords:

  • Ensuring representation for the voice of apprentices and learners
  • Protecting vulnerable learners in ‘at risk’ colleges
  • Improving careers education and publishing a Careers Strategy

These are all areas where the government has suggested it will make some positive progress but there is nowhere near enough in the Bill as it stands to show that they really mean it.

For example, we saw last week that there won’t be an apprentice on the Board of the Institute for Apprenticeships; and, the government have continually avoided amending the Bill to create ‘representative panels’ of apprentices and learners, despite promising to establish them to get the learner voice heard.

Similarly, the government has been promising a Careers Strategy for over a year but this Bill doesn’t even mention careers education. This is a blatant failure for learners and is one of the key things we are calling on peers to speak about when the Bill is debated today.

You can watch the second reading of the Bill at this afternoon.


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