Conference season is here and Brexit will dominate. But what about education and skills? We asked two politicians to set out their plansby Gordon Marsden , Alok Sharma / September 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
It’s time for a National Education Service
Gordon Marsden Labour MP for Blackpool South, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Skills
The skills gap in the UK has grown as we enter a period of Brexit uncertainty. Our traditional solution to filling this gap has been to take skilled labour from outside the UK. But Brexit will make that harder. We must invest now in a far broader workforce.
Consecutive governments have failed to act. Since tuition fees were trebled in 2012, part-time and adult higher education has suffered a 59 per cent drop in England. In Further Education, the adult skills budget was cut by 40 per cent. These cuts have stopped attempts to close the skills gap. It will soon be difficult to build skilled local economies or address our productivity crisis. The government’s latest skills initiative, T-Levels, is mired in controversy.
Meanwhile the number of adults in government-funded further education is still falling. The Skills Minister recently told parliament: “we should be shocked that one in two adults have the numeracy skills of an 11-year-old.” The UK is ranked 20th globally for English and maths, with 20 per cent of young adults below the basic level. Around 9m adults have low literacy or numeracy. More than 700,000 young people (16-24) not in work or education.
The complacency surrounding basic skills and those not in education, employment or training must end. That is where Labour’s National Education Service, launched this spring, would play a central ro…