The general election has dominated the media over the past few weeks. The landslide win for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives has changed the shape and power balance of parliament. It now looks highly unlikely that the Prime Minister will struggle to have his bills approved by the house – especially on matters such as Brexit.
But with the race now over, what do the results of the election really mean for the education sector and the UK as a whole?
In a recent webinar, I dissected the results to help shed some light on what the next four years might have in store.
“Get Brexit done” – the rallying cry which has formed the cornerstone of Boris Johnson’s campaign. With a majority vote now in his favour, the Prime Minister will push forward with negotiations to have the UK leave the EU by January 2020. We will then have an 11 month transitionary period in which to negotiate a trade deal or risk leaving in December 2020 on WTO terms.
In its current form, the Apprenticeship levy does work, but it requires some optimisation in order to get it working to its full potential. The government has committed to look into the levy, as if slow growth in the economy leads to lower than anticipated levy receipts, there needs to be a plan to ensure the programme budget is not underfunded.
National Minimum Wage
The National Minimum Wage is set to rise to £10.50 an hour by April 2024, with the age threshold for eligibility to be lowered from 25 to 21. At the State opening of parliament, a caveat was added, to say this rise would happen “provided economic conditions allow.” While we can all appreciate that this is a good thing for young people in the workplace, there may be a risk that these changes affect the employability of 21-24 year olds in certain industries. The £10.50 rate will not apply to apprentices.
The UK is set to adopt an Australian-style points system for granting people access to work in the UK, with a £30,000 earning threshold. While some occupations won’t be subject to this policy, in other sectors, such as health and social care, this new system may create job vacancies as other push and pull factors cause overseas workers to leave the UK. This will create a need to upskill and retrain UK workers in order to meet skills gaps left behind.
The government remains committed to devolving power to people and places across the UK in order to continue building on the successful devolution of powers to city region mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners. It is parliament’s ambition that every part of the country has the power to shape its own destiny. The devolution of the Adult Education Budget (AEB) has been a good yardstick for this and the government plans to publish a dedicated devolution white paper in the New Year to outline how it plans to build on this.
In stark contrast to Tony Blair’s famous “Education, Education, Education” manifesto from 1997, there was relatively little mention of education and skills in the 2019 pledges. While this is not to say that there won’t be changes to come, it is fair to assume that education policy as it exists currently will be likely to continue while other, more pressing issues take centre stage. The manifesto does promise the following for education and skills:
- Early years will benefit from an additional £1 billion of funding to create more high-quality, affordable childcare, including before and after school and holiday clubs to enable parents to continue to work.
- School spending will increase by £7.1 billion by 2022-23. Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that this will return the spend per pupil back to being “no higher in 2022–23 than it was 13 years earlier.”
- Colleges will receive £1.8 billion in capital funding to improve the further education estate. There will be 20 Institutes of Technology across the nation, connecting high-quality teaching in science, technology, engineering and maths to business and industry
- Apprenticeships will be created through a number of proposed infrastructure projects. A percentage of workers employed are likely to have to be apprentices. The government will also continue to refine and improve the apprenticeship levy.
- For people who have struggled to get onto the work ladder and lack qualifications, as well as people who are keen to return to work following a career break to raise a family, or switch from one career to another, the government has proposed the creation of a £3 billion National Skills Fund. How this will work exactly is not clear at the point, and there will be a consultation in 2020.