What does the new Budget mean for Technical Education?

The much anticipated Autumn Budget was pitched as one of the major political set pieces ahead of the government setting out its vision for a post-brexit Britain.

Although on the surface there weren’t too many headline announcements about education and skills, the combination of announcements shows where the treasury is placing its priorities for its vision of Technical Education.

This budget takes place against an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast of another 1 million jobs, coupled with lower than expected public spending & higher tax receipts. This has given the Chancellor an opportunity to spend all this extra revenue (and more) but it is, however, caveated on a positive Brexit outcome.

So what about the measures outlined?

Let’s start with the key winners, the Apprenticeship Levy and the NHS. The context of employment growth, and higher average earnings growth means there’s a good chance the Apprenticeship Levy will meet its initial budget projections. Employers who don’t pay the levy will also only have to contribute 5% of the overall cost of their apprenticeship standard to access government funding, responding to pressure from smaller employers. We were also told of a review of the Apprenticeship Levy, which will review the vision for the Levy post 2020, another opportunity for us all to share our opinions with government.

Schools did receive a little extra funding, pitched as money for ‘little extras’, £400 million in extra capital funding this year – an average of £10,000 per primary school or £50,000 per secondary school for equipment and facilities.

With the additional investment into the NHS, it’s reasonable to anticipate this will mean more jobs, and therefore greater prospects for apprenticeships within the NHS and its supply chain.  

Unfortunately, despite a great lobbying effort, Further Education didn’t receive the increases in the funding they were petitioning for. By 19/20 there is no real terms increase for DfE spending, in fact there is a slight cash cut. This is especially tough set against a forecast for an increase in the number of 16-18 learners over the next few years.

There are however green shoots emerging around the governments first phase of the National Retraining Scheme, with £100m which will include “a new careers guidance service with expert advice to help people identify work opportunities in their area, and state-of-the-art courses combining online learning with traditional classroom teaching to develop key transferable skills”. NCFE has been feeding into and challenging this policy as it has evolved, so it’s reassuring to hear that government is moving forward with its proposals.

So from this, we can see that the government is continuing to focus its funding through a combination of interventions to support people to get into work, receipts from the Apprenticeship Levy and a continuing spending freeze from the Treasury. The real acid test for these plans will come when the government presents its plans for Brexit in the next few weeks.

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