Tuesday 12 November 2019 / 9:30 AM Angela Rayner / Education

Labour announces plans to “throw open the door” for adults to study

Labour announces plans to “throw open the door” for adults to study and retrain throughout their lives and take advantage of the Green Industrial Revolution

In a speech in Blackpool today (Tuesday), Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner will announce plans to ensure everyone has access to education and training throughout their life to end skills shortages and “allow our economy to rise to the opportunities of the future”.

Labour is pledging to put vocational education on a par with university degrees and deliver a radical expansion of lifelong learning to make sure “no one is shut out of education.”

Labour’s plans will enable adults to return to study for free and ensure everyone has the time and support they need to study and retrain.

Angela Rayner will say that Labour will “throw open the door” for adults to study, “whether they want to change career, are made redundant or didn’t get the qualifications they needed when they were younger.”

The party says its plans are vital to meet the changing nature of industry – ensuring automation doesn’t leave people without work and we have the skills we need to tackle the climate emergency.

Labour’s commitment to lifelong learning is part of our plans for a National Education Service, which will provide cradle-to-grave learning that is free at the point of use.

Labour will provide 30 hours of free childcare to all 2 to 4 year olds, open 1000 new Sure Start centres, cut class sizes for all 5, 6 and 7 year olds, scrap SATs for key stage 1 and 2 and provide free school meals to all primary school children. The party will also scrap university tuition fees, bring back EMA for sixth form students and bring back university maintenance grants.

Britain has a severe skills shortage, particularly in higher technical skills. According to the CBI, two thirds of businesses worry they won’t be able to fill skilled posts. The Conservatives have slashed funding for further education and skills training by 47 per cent and overseen a 25 per cent decline in adults enrolling in education.

New research by the Labour party, published today, has revealed that the number of adults achieving qualification in basic skills has plummeted since 2011. In 2011 there were 633,000 adults achieving a qualification in either English, Maths or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) but this had fallen by 40 per cent to 418,500 in 2017/18. The number of adults currently learning is at its lowest point since 1996.

Labour will ensure that everyone can access education and training, throughout their life. We will:

• Enable any adult without A-level or equivalent qualification to attend college and study for them for free;

• Give every adult a free entitlement to six years of study for qualifications at level 4-6 (undergraduate degrees and equivalents such as Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, Foundation Degrees, Certificates and Diplomas of Higher Education in areas such as rail engineering technicians, nursing associates, and professional accounting technicians);

• Provide maintenance grants for low income adult learners to complete their courses;

• Give workers the right to paid time off for education and training;

• Give employers a role in designing qualifications to make sure training is equipping learners with the right skills;

• Support workplace learning and improve basic skills by reversing cuts to the Union Learning Fund;

• Make sure everyone has access to the information they need to return to study through a national careers advice service.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Labour will throw open the door for adults to study, whether they want to change career, are made redundant or didn’t get the qualifications they needed when they were younger.

“For many, adult education is too expensive, too time-consuming or too difficult to get into.

“People have been held back for too long. We will make free education a right to ensure we have the skills we need to allow our economy to rise to the opportunities of the future.

“We’ll make sure no one is shut out of education by giving people the support, time and funding they need to train so that we have the skills we need to meet the changing nature of work and tackle the climate emergency.”

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, will say:

“As part of Labour’s plan for real change, we will invest in a national education service, free at the point of use, so everyone can learn at every stage of their lives.

“I see education like an escalator running alongside you throughout life, that you can get on and off whenever you want.

“That’s what Labour’s National Education Service will offer people – free education, as a right for all. Under our plans, skills and vocational qualifications are valued the same as university degrees.

“We don’t just benefit from our own education, we benefit from everybody else’s too.

“Tomorrow’s jobs are in green and high-tech industries. We need people to have the skills to take those jobs. By ensuring the ultra-rich pay their way, we can provide training to everybody who needs it.

“I’d rather give a break to the worker who wants to learn, than a tax break to the billionaire who wants for nothing. That’s the difference between Labour and the Conservatives.”