What could be in store for technical education?
As we head into the final stage of the selection process that will decide our next Prime Minister, it is worth seeing what each of the candidates’ views of the technical education sector are, and anticipate any significant changes that would form their premiership.
There hasn’t been a specific focus on a comprehensive education plan during Jeremy Hunt’s campaign, however he did set out his ‘five pledges for young people’. This included;
- additional homes for young people
- promise mental health support teams in every school
- legislation to deliver net zero carbon emissions by 2050
- reduced interest on student debt
- More support for young entrepreneurs - including cancelling the student debt for graduates who go on to set up their own businesses that employs more than 10 people for five years.
Hunt has also come out strongly in in favour of LGBT lessons in schools, pledging that he would defend the right of schools to talk about LGBT families to young children – this would build on recent statements from the Department for Education (DfE) in support of inclusive relationships education.
We can also examine his track record on education matters as a potential indicator of the flavour of his premiership.
In 2016 he voted in favour of a bill that proposed turning all primary and secondary schools in England into academies, shifting control over them from local councils to central government. In 2010, he also voted against a bill requiring new academy schools to only be built in areas where there is a proven need for additional capacity and for a bill to enable more schools in England to gain "Academy Status" and the consequent financial independence and removal from local authority control.
He has also voted consistently in favour of university tuition fees and voted in favour of raising England’s undergraduate tuition fee cap to £9,000 per year in 2010.
He also voted in favour of scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in 2011 and has consistently supported the further autonomy of schools.
Hunt also co-chaired a Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) led government initiative for the equality of education for girls across the world called Platform for Girls Education.
Jeremy Hunt throughout his current campaign and political career overall has outlined his passion and interest in education and has good experience within education. He previously taught in Japan and started an educational guidance company called Hotcourses Ltd.
It is likely he would follow through with his promise to implement mental health support in schools as this seems a subject close to his heart.
As Health Secretary, he pushed for more apprenticeships in nursing suggesting he is an advocate of apprenticeship schemes. Therefore, Hunt is likely to favour apprenticeships and skills focused education should he become Prime Minister.
However, his voting record perhaps doesn’t align so well to his interests and passions. Jeremy has consistently voted for ending financial support for some 16-19-year olds in training and further education.
Again, education policy hasn’t been a key pillar of Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, however he did pledge to ensure every secondary school in England would spend £5,000 per pupil per year. He has said the purpose of this is to correct the regional disparity between spending per pupil; especially in terms of the ‘north/south divide’.
In an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC, Johnson also stated that he supported the policy of giving LGBT lessons in schools.
Examining his voting history, we can see that he has demonstrated strong support for academies and has consistently voted in favour of academy schools in every vote since being elected in 2016. He also voted not to take the opportunity to oppose Good or Outstanding schools being forced to become an academy.
Johnson appears to have been mostly against a rise in university tuition fees early on in his career as MP. He voted a number of times against a rise in university tuition fees. In 2004 he also voted in favour of the Liberal Democrats policy of abolishing university tuition fees.
However later on in 2004 Johnson voted against the immediate abolition of all tuition fees, the re-introduction of maintenance grants of up to £2,000 for students from low-income homes, and changes to the country's higher education system.
He also opposed a bill to scrap university tuition fees in 2017 and voted not to take the opportunity to oppose further increases in university tuition fees in 2016. Johnson also voted against the reinstatement of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), maintenance grants and nurses’ bursaries in 2017.
It’s hard to predict exactly what education policy would look like under Boris Johnson, but it is possible to extract some likely stances from his track record.
Johnson has already promised to spend £5,000 per pupil per year across secondary schools in England as his big flagship education policy proposal. This could end up simply being an advisory figure, although he has suggested it would be implemented under his premiership.
It is unlikely Johnson would raise university tuition fees given his voting record on the matter. Despite this, it is also improbable that he would scrap or lessen university tuition fees given his very recent voting record and his aversion to increasing public spending.
In relation to further education specifically, he has backed extra funding for the FE sector which was so clearly outlined in the recent Augar Review. Specifically, Johnson said that the government “should do more to fund our amazing FE colleges, which have all too often been forgotten”.
We would encourage both of the candidates to champion Technical Education should they become Prime Minister, as it is a key driver of social mobility for individuals looking to change or improve their career prospects, and as a way of ensuring that, as a country, we can remain competitive and productive into the future.