6th December 2019

GE 2019 manifesto analysis | Priority 6: Post-16 education, including technical and vocational

After the age of 16, young people in England must select from a variety of routes intended to develop the right skills and knowledge to prepare them for the world of work or for higher education. The provision of a high-quality, well-funded, and accessible post-16 system is vital to support young people to make informed choices about their future.

It is also increasingly important to ensure the right skills are being cultivated to meet productivity needs. In addition to current known challenges in the UK labour market, a new government may be preparing for the uncertain impact of leaving the European Union. Jobs requiring intermediate, technical skills appear the most vulnerable given the UK’s long-standing difficulty in generating these skills in its workforce.[1]

Overall assessment

All parties except the Brexit party have pledged to increase funding for the 16-19 education phase. The Conservatives have pledged the least and have not committed to additional funding beyond their one-year settlement. Labour’s pledge is lower than that made by the Liberal Democrats, but is set to rise significantly beyond the first year. Combined with additional funding provided by the young people’s premium, this would reverse a significant proportion of cuts felt in the last decade.

There is little detail across manifestos on how technical education will be addressed in a new government. Our assumption is that current government policy on reforming qualifications including T levels will continue, but there is no detail on what funding will be provided and how quality will be ensured.

No parties make reference to numeracy, literacy or the “forgotten third” – save it being implied by some pledging significant funding uplift in further education. Again, we have to assume that current government policy will continue, for example the requirement for some to re-sit English and maths GCSEs to achieve a basic level of qualification. There needs to be more explicit commitment and closer consideration of how best to tackle these issues.

On apprenticeships, there is no clear focus from any party on the potential benefits of recruiting younger apprentices, and no clear plan on improving their quality.

[1] David Robinson, ‘Further Education Pathways: Securing a Successful and Healthy Life after Education’, (November 2019)


You can download the full analysis of this priority here