To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the briefing paper by the UCL Institute of Education The darkest hour? New evidence of the learning experiences, well-being and expectations of youth during the third national lockdown in the UK, published on 2 April; and what steps they are taking to increase the acquisition of work skills through education.
28 April 2021
Many young people have lost a significant amount of learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. We recognise the importance of supporting this group of young people to help them catch up. This is especially critical for those young people moving from school into further education. We introduced catch-up funding to support those disadvantaged 16-19 students whose studies have been disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak, allocating up to £96 million to provide small group tutoring activity. We have extended this with further investment of £102 million into the 2021/22 academic year.
We are investing a further £102 million to continue the 16-19 Tuition Fund in the 2021/22 academic year. As a result, hundreds of thousands of young people will be eligible for valuable tuition to help them recover lost learning caused by COVID-19-related disruption. Within the eligible cohort, providers will have discretion to target those students who need support most. As further evidence emerges, we will consider if refinements to eligibility for future funding are needed to maximise its value and impact in providing catch-up support for 16-19 students.
Wellbeing & Disadvantage
Further education (FE) providers provide mental health support to students in their wrap around, pastoral offer. This includes a number of initiatives supported by the Department for Education, including the ‘Wellbeing for Education Return’ - an £8 million scheme funding expert advisers and training in every local authority area to support wellbeing recovery as children and young people returned to school and FE from September 2020 and the £5.4million College Collaboration Fund helping colleges to develop new ways to support student and staff mental health and wellbeing, details of which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/college-collaboration-fund-ccf-projects/resources-college-collaboration-fund-ccf.
As part of the £350 million tutoring support funding announced in June 2020, we made available a one-off, ring-fenced 16-19 Tuition Fund of up to £96 million for the academic year 2020/21. The 16-19 Tuition Fund is specifically for FE and sixth form colleges, school sixth forms and other providers of 16-19 education, to support disadvantaged students.
The ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper, published in January 2021, sets out our blueprint to reform post-16 education and training. It is focused on giving people the skills they need, in a way that suits them, so they can get great jobs in sectors the economy needs and boost this country’s productivity.
A range of provision is already available for young people aged 16 to 24 to equip them with the skills and experience they need to progress, including Traineeships, which provide unemployed young people with employability training, work experience and English and Maths.
We have also launched T Levels, which are a high-quality technical alternative to A levels. With longer teaching hours and a meaningful industry placement of minimum 45 days, employer-designed T Levels will be excellent preparation for skilled work or further training.
We recognise the vital role that further education plays in supporting our labour market and productivity, as well preparing young people for higher education.
Through the Plan for Jobs, we are investing £1.6 billion to scale up employment support schemes and training to ensure young people have the skills and training to go on to high quality, secure and fulfilling employment. This funding is delivering real change on the ground, including through the new Kickstart scheme providing six-month jobs for young people furthest from the labour market, incentive payments for employers taking on new apprentices; the largest ever expansion in Traineeships; and considerable growth in the number of sector-based work academy programme placements to enable unemployed individuals to acquire the skills needed for local jobs.
My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced £375 million for the National Skills Fund at Spending Review in November 2020. This includes £95 million funding for a new level 3 adult offer and £43 million for Skills Bootcamps, as part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. Currently, adults between the ages of 19 to 23 are eligible for full funding for their first full level 3, which is equivalent to an advanced technical certificate or diploma, or two full A levels. From April 2021 any adult aged 24 and over who is looking to achieve their first full level 3 will be able to access a fully funded course which will give them new skills and greater prospects in the labour market.
We have also introduced Skills Bootcamps, which are free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. Skills Bootcamps have the potential to transform the skills landscape for adults and employers. Skills Bootcamps are open to all adults aged 19 or over, who are either in work or recently unemployed.
For students in higher education (HE), following the review announced in the Roadmap of when all higher education students can return to in-person teaching, the government confirms that remaining students on non-practical courses should return to in-person teaching alongside step 3 of the Roadmap which will be no earlier than 17 May.
We understand the difficulty that this further delay will create for students and their families, as well as providers and staff both financially and in terms of mental wellbeing. The government is making a further £15 million of additional student hardship funding available for this academic year 2020/21.
In total we have made an additional £85 million of funding available for student hardship. This is on top of the £256 million of government funded student premium funding already available to HE providers to draw on towards student hardship funds for this academic year 2020/21. Alongside this, we have worked with the Office for Students to launch the online mental health platform Student Space, worth up to £3 million, in addition to the £15 million we have asked them to allocate to student mental health initiatives next year.
Education and skills lie at the heart of our national mission as we recover from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. It is critical, not only for this generation of young people, but also for the economic and social health of the nation.