1 Jul 2024

Further Education & Apprenticeships Monthly News Round-up: June 2024

Welcome to Bridgehead Education's latest monthly news roundup that explores and analyses trends in the coverage of "further education" and "apprenticeship(s)" in the UK media landscape throughout June.

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Welcome to Bridgehead Education's latest monthly news roundup of 2024, that explores and analyses trends in the coverage of "further education" and "apprenticeship(s)" in the UK media landscape throughout June.

In June, there were 1,913 mentions of either "further education" or "apprenticeship(s)" in the UK media, a five per cent increase on recorded mentions in May. The modest increase despite a busy month as the election draws closer is to be expected given the extensive coverage that the sector secured in May, fuelled by the early pledges that have been made by both parties in the run up to July 4.

Despite high figures, however, a number of the most significant media references to the sector in June took on a pessimistic tone.

This figures for this June also represent a 35 per cent increase on those of the same month in 2023.

The chart below plots the mentions of "further education" and "apprenticeship(s)" in the media over the last twelve months.

We are just hours away from polling day. Seismic political change appears to loom on the horizon. Whichever party takes power, skills and further education will quickly make its way to the top of their priority list.

Through June, coverage heightened as each party released their manifestos. All touched on commitments to the sector. FE Week featured detailed breakdowns of the Labour and Conservative parties’ pledges on FE and skills.

The Education Policy Institute published a report with similar, assessing the viability - and potential impact - of each party’s plans. They concluded, however, that each were failing to address the most important of the issues plaguing the sector. Government finances coupled with the deliberate pledges of the major political parties have, it argues, “resulted in an offering that is exceedingly limited.”

There was also not-so-positive research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in June. Their research suggests that the next government will have to find an additional £400 million just to sustain per-pupil funding for 16-18 education. Even maintaining this level, it revealed, would mean funding remains 9 per cent lower than in 2009-10. The researchers concluded that the next government would likely face significant pressure to avoid cuts, though how this could be squared with current policy proposals “remains to be seen”.

There was, however, some positive news, at least for the Labour Party. A week before the election the Financial Times reported that more than fifty major businesses had written a joint letter endorsing Labour’s plan to reform the apprenticeship levy into a more flexible growth and skills levy. In the letter, business leaders said they supported a “fresh approach to ensure everyone has opportunities, businesses have the right skills, and our economy thrives,"

Top Stories

Below are our top 5 FE and skills news stories of June.

FE Week - Labour manifesto 2024 - The FE and Skills pledges

"Labour has promised “a comprehensive strategy” to “better integrate” further and higher education in its general election manifesto published this morning.

Under Labour leader Keir Starmer’s ‘break down barriers to opportunity’ mission, a Labour government would “better integrate further and higher education” by setting out the roles of different training providers, how students can move between them and “strengthening regulation”."

FE Week - conservative manifesto 2024 - the fe and skills pledges

"The Conservatives have pledged to create 100,000 more apprenticeships and introduce an ‘Advanced British Standard’ if it wins the election.

The party launched its manifesto this morning which also commits to introducing a national service for 18-year-olds funded by eventually scrapping the UK Shared Prosperity Fund."

Financial Times - Business leaders back Labour's plan for a growth and skills levy

"The Labour party has secured a fresh letter of support from business leaders, this time backing its plans to overhaul the “apprenticeship levy” if it wins the UK general election next week.

The 57 signatories backing the Labour plan for a new “growth and skills levy” include executives from several large companies including the pub group Fuller’s, outsourcers Serco and Mitie, and Merlin Entertainments, the owner of Madame Tussauds, which is backed by private equity group Blackstone."

Institute For Fiscal Studies - The uncertain course for school and college funding over the next parliament

"Given the significant challenges faced by schools and colleges at present, it seems likely that an incoming government would face pressure to avoid cuts in school and college funding. How exactly this could be squared with pledges on overall spending, taxation and the management of the government’s finances that the Conservatives and Labour have made remains to be seen."

Education Policy Institute - General Election 2024: An analysis of manifesto pledges for education

“The Chancellor missed another opportunity today to back his quest for economic growth by investing in the skills which will drive it. The lack of much-needed funding for colleges in today’s spring budget will mean skills shortages will continue to hamper employers who are struggling to find the skilled people they need to grow."

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