New legislation

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill introduced to Parliament

Published: 26th May 2021
Area: Education

The long awaited Skills and Post-16 Education Bill was introduced to Parliament on 18 May, putting in legislative form the proposals brought forward by the government in the skills for jobs white paper published in January of this year.

The Bill includes a number of important changes to the further education (FE) sector, and will involve greater powers being allocated to the Secretary of State for Education.

What are the key changes?

In the government’s own words, the key changes are:

  • Embedding employers in the heart of the skills system, by making it a legal requirement that employers and colleges collaborate to develop skills plans so that the training on offer meets the need of local areas, and so people no longer have to leave their home-towns to find great jobs;
  • Supporting the transformation of the current student loans system which will give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives; and
  • Introducing new powers to intervene when colleges are failing to deliver good outcomes for the communities they serve, and to direct structural change where needed to ensure colleges improve.
How the Bill seeks to achieve the key changes

The Bill, if enacted, will require the development of local skills improvement plans and places an obligation on college governing bodies to regularly review provision in relation to local skills need.

At this stage there is a lack of information in the Bill about how the “lifelong loan entitlement”, trumpeted in the white paper, and intended to make student loan finance available for an equivalent of four years’ study throughout life across post-compulsory further and higher education, will work. The government has promised more information on this as the Bill progresses through Parliament.

The structural changes referred to will potentially include forced mergers, which if actually used, will demonstrate a far greater willingness on the part of the government to intervene in the sector.

A number of sector leaders have cautiously welcomed the plans, albeit with some degree of alarm raised by what many see as a centralisation of powers in the hands of the Department for Education and with the Secretary of State.

Renewed importance of the further education sector

At the very least, the plans and the surrounding messaging from the government, are a further illustration of the renewed importance being placed on the FE sector post Brexit.

This is surely a welcome sign, and the Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, has said that: “[The] legislation is confirmation that colleges will be central to the country’s economic recovery. For too long the snobbery towards further education has meant it’s been neglected and the Skills and Post 16 Education Bill is a chance to put that right.”

The changes also represent a pivot away from a focus on the higher education (HE) sector, with the government being at pains to emphasise the importance of FE in helping the country to recover from the economic impact of Covid-19, as well as speaking to the government’s much talked about “levelling up” agenda.

We’re here to help

We will continue to analyse the Bill, and monitor for details yet to emerge, as it progresses through Parliament.

If you would like further information or advice please contact Tom Long, head of further education, or another member of our specialist education team.

Our education team is ranked as a Top Tier Firm in the Legal 500 2021 edition. 

Our updated guide to recovery and resilience covers everything you need to navigate your way out of lockdown, unlock your potential and make way for a brighter future. Further advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on our dedicated coronavirus resource hub.   

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND

How can we help?

Our expert lawyers are ready to help you with a wide range of legal services, use the search below or call us on: 0330 024 0333

SHMA® ON DEMAND

Listen to our SHMA® ON DEMAND content covering a broad range of topics to help support you and your business.

Employment: Jab or no jab – mock employment tribunal

29 Sep

Natasha Jasinska, Paralegal | Robin Gronbech, Solicitor | Lubna Laheria, Solicitor | Emma Oliver, Associate | Helen Hughes, Legal Director | Michael Hibbs, Partner | Matt McDonald, Partner
Employment: Jab or no jab – mock employment tribunal

Join us for a 3 hour virtual employment mock tribunal as we lead you […]

Legal dos and don’ts for fast growing tech businesses

29 Sep

Helen Molloy, Partner | Kerry Russell, Legal Director
Legal dos and don’ts for fast growing tech businesses

We will guide you through the legal life cycle of a fast-growing tech company, […]

Grandparents rights: when there is a family dispute involving grandchildren

1 Oct

Katherine Marshall, Partner | Matt Parr, Legal Director | Tom Ansell, Partner
Grandparents rights: when there is a family dispute involving grandchildren

The first of our series of three family webinars will align to Grandparents Day […]

Retirement housing: Avoiding costly planning appeals: what needs to change in national and local planning policies

5 Oct

Louise Drew, Partner & Head of Building Communities | Simon Stanion, Partner
Retirement housing: Avoiding costly planning appeals: what needs to change in national and local planning policies

In this webinar, we will be joined by a panel of experts to explore: […]

Our Latest Thoughts

All the latest views and insights on current topics.

Heavyweight Education Lawyer receives second doctorate

13 Sep

Firm News

Heavyweight Education Lawyer receives second doctorate

Read article Right Arrow

Higher Education Freedom of Speech Bill

9 Sep

Education

Higher Education Freedom of Speech Bill

Read article Right Arrow

Personal data can now flow freely from the EU to the UK

5 Aug

Education

Personal data can now flow freely from the EU to the UK

Read article Right Arrow

Managing change: what the education sector needs to consider

13 Jul

Education

Managing change: what the education sector needs to consider

Read article Right Arrow

Sexual misconduct and the use of NDAs. Are you ready for the new academic year?

8 Jul

Education

Sexual misconduct and the use of NDAs. Are you ready for the new academic year?

Read article Right Arrow