Williamson pledges £120m fund to ‘supercharge further education’

An expansion of technical education in England will see £120 million invested in new specialist institutes, the Education Secretary has pledged.

Making the announcement to “supercharge further education” at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Gavin Williamson said the number of Institutes of Technology – partnerships between businesses, universities and further education colleges – will expand from the 12 currently planned to 20 across England.

He said he has set a goal to “overtake Germany” in the race to deliver the best possible non-academic education.

Mr Williamson added that the Government will also form a new skills and productivity board of leading labour market economists to advise him on policies to boost skills.

Addressing Tory Party members in Manchester, he said: “Apprenticeships, technical and vocational education, these are just as important and as valuable as going to university and are just as important to our economy to make sure that Britain succeeds in the future.

“So today I am setting a new target to supercharge further education over the next decade. Our aim is to overtake Germany in the opportunities we offer to those studying technical routes by 2029.”

Mr Williamson continued: “In delivering this new ambition we’ll be guided by evidence, so we’ll be establishing a new experts, skills and productivity board of leading industrialists and labour market economists to provide strategic advice on the skills and qualifications that we need.

“But I don’t want us to focus only on apprenticeships and T-levels, because we need better technical and vocational education over and above that too.

“And that is why we’re going to be opening new Institutes of Technology – they’re about providing university level technical qualifications, and set to specific skills that are most needed in their economies.

“They have the potential to transform high-level technical education, bringing together FE colleges, universities and employers.

“But we don’t have enough of them to serve our country, so today I can tell you that we’re going to be making available £120 million extra so that we can have an Institute of Technology in every part of the country, opening a total of 20, so there is one in every major city in England.”

“We’ll make sure every young person in every part of our country gets the chance to gain the high-level technical skills that they and we need, from the elementary to the elite; we need stretching technical education at every single level.”

Mr Williamson added that further education had been “often overlooked”.

“While past Labour governments obsessed over targets to get half the population to university, they forgot about the other 50%. We’re going to put that right,” he said.

He also promised to expand the number of specialist maths free schools open from two to 11, to ensure elite maths teaching is available for all 16 to 19-year-olds, wherever they live in England.

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