Skills bill becomes law

The new act sets in motion the government’s goal to support lifelong learning with new four-year flexible loans for higher-level education and training

The government’s skills bill entered the statute book on 28 April, becoming the Skills and Post-16 Education Act in the closing days of the current session of parliament.

Alex Burghart, the skills minister, said the new act would “transform the skills, training and post-16 education landscape and level-up opportunities across the country.”

Eleven months have passed since the bill was first presented to parliament.

The act requires colleges and other providers of post-16 technical education to develop with employers local skills plans. The secretary of state can appoint and remove organisations from these employer representative bodies (ERBs) responsible for these local skills improvement plans (LSIPs).

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education gains powers over the approval of technical qualifications.

This legislation will make sure everyone can gain the skills they need to progress into a rewarding job, and businesses have access to a pipeline of talented, qualified employees for their workforces – boosting productivity
Alex Burghart, skills minister

Under the new laws, children in secondary education should now all meet representatives from technical education “so that they understand the wide range of career routes…not just the traditional academic options”, like degrees.

Perhaps most significant are the reforms to the student loan system, which create a flexible four-year fund for adults to access government-approved higher-level education and training at university or college. The government hopes these loans will come into effect from 2025 following a public consulation. There are new statutory powers to intervene in improving failing colleges and a ban on advertising and providing essay mill services “for financial gain”.

Backbenchers and peers raised concerns over the government decision to remove funding from some level 3 qualifications, like Btecs, that overlapped with T-levels. In response, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi delayed defunding by a year and clarified that only a “small proportion” of qualifications faced the axe – but further attempts to delay the cuts faltered.

Read more: ‘Less than half’ of Btecs could see funding cut, says Zahawi

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