Speeches made during Parliamentary debates are recorded in Hansard. For ease of browsing we have grouped debates into individual, departmental and legislative categories.
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The challenging financial situation we face due to the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a temporary reduction in the UK’s aid spending target from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5%. This means making difficult decisions when it comes to prioritising how we spend aid money to deliver the most impactful outcomes.
The Government recognises the importance of supporting international research partnerships and supporting the UK research sector. My Rt. Hon. Friend Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer committed to increase investment in R&D across government to £14.6bn in 2021/22; this will support our ambitions set out in the Integrated Review, which recognises the importance of international collaboration to a healthy and productive R&D sector.
The Department is committed to delivering on the global health response to COVID. Despite the budgetary pressure caused by COVID last year, the Department mobilised £14.5m of ODA funding through the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Newton Fund to support research into COVID in developing country contexts.
We are currently working with UKRI, and all our Global Challenges Research Fund and Newton Fund Delivery Partners, to manage the financial year 2021/22 ODA allocations.
As part of the announcement on 4 May, the Government confirmed that Research England would bring forward £100m for Quality-related Research (QR) Funding in Academic Year 2019-20. This will be allocated to HE institutions in England eligible to receive funding from Research England as a “top-up” to their overall QR allocation.
QR is selectively allocated to maintain excellent research with impact wherever it is found (based on excellence and impact performance as assessed through the Research Excellence Framework), and to provide support for the next generation of researchers and for research activities which lever funding from external sources such as the charitable and business sectors.
The department knows that high quality teaching is the most important in-school factor in improving outcomes for all children, particularly those from a disadvantaged background. Providing the best possible initial teacher training (ITT) is at the heart of the government’s drive to improve teaching standards.
On 2 January 2021, we announced that we would be resuming our review of the ITT market, to support it to work more efficiently and effectively, making the process of becoming a teacher less complicated and burdensome. The review will aim to make well informed, evidence-based recommendations on how to ensure all trainees are receiving consistent, high quality training, in line with the ITT Core Content Framework. Any reforms must maintain sufficient capacity to deliver enough qualified teachers, whilst being accessible to candidates and of benefit to all schools.
The Chair and a small expert group, with the support of Department officials, are conducting early work to better understand these issues and the direction of the work. We are confident that the expert group covers a range of expertise and perspectives (Higher Education Institute-led, large and small School Centred Initial Teacher Training providers, national provider of ITT, and both school and ITT curriculum expertise), which will be essential in ensuring the review maintains market capacity and reflects an understanding of high-quality ITT. Additionally, they are holding discussions with sector representatives including the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers and the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, with broader engagement planned from late spring.
We published the White Paper Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth on 21 January 2021.
On 2 January 2021, the Department announced we were resuming our review of the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) market to identify improvements that reduce costs for providers and exploring how we can encourage high quality providers – including high-performing multi academy trusts – to extend their reach, deliver at scale and do more to support the wider system. We started work on this in early 2020 with a series of workshops with ITT sector representatives to understand the current market better. This work was paused so that government, and the ITT sector, could focus on the challenges caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
We are now resuming the ITT review, building on the opportunities afforded by our Teacher Development reforms, including the ITT Core Content Framework. The department will work with the sector as the review progresses. We expect further engagement to take place in the late spring, and the review to conclude in the summer.
Officials had informed ITT sector representative organisations, the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers and the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, that the recommencement of the ITT review and the creation of the Institute for Teaching would be announced. The Chair of the ITT review has substantive discussions with the leadership of these organisations planned in the coming weeks.
The department has held a range of policy development conversations on the proposal for an Institute of Teaching with academics, teacher development providers, representative organisations and teaching unions. The department intends to run a robust procurement exercise to identify a strong organisation or organisations to establish the Institute of Teaching. The successful bidders will need to demonstrate an exceptional track record in delivery of teacher training and development. The new organisation will also be subject to a range of quality assurance measures during its set-up phase to ensure its delivery will be the highest quality.
On Monday 4 May, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced a package of measures to stabilise university admissions this autumn and to ensure sustainability in higher education at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
My hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities, wrote to all hon. Members on 4 May with full details of the package, which have also been published on GOV.UK: www.gov.uk/government/news/government-support-package-for-universities-and-students.
Controls on student numbers at provider level will be determined based on provider forecasts and will allow for 5% growth above this. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, will also have the discretion to allocate an additional 10,000 places, with 5,000 of those places ringfenced for students studying nursing or allied health courses.
From September 2020, all new and continuing degree-level nursing students and midwifery students - and many allied health students - will receive additional funding of at least £5,000 per academic year, which they will not need to pay back, to help with living costs.
Students are already a priority target audience for our recruitment campaign for teaching, which supports the department’s targets for entry to post-graduate initial teacher training. The marketing campaign is resuming in May and will run through until August for applications to start training in autumn 2020.
The government will continue to support enrolments on social work education programmes through the provision of bursaries and our fast-track graduate entry programmes.
As both my right hon. Friends, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have made clear, the government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID-19.
Our latest guidance on the impact of COVID-19 is set out below:
These are rapidly developing circumstances. We will continue to keep the situation under review and to keep Parliament updated accordingly.
We have supported further education (FE) colleges through the Restructuring Facility, investing £405 million and enabling significant restructurings to take place across a range of FE colleges to help achieve long-term sustainability and delivery of high quality, sustainable provision.
We have also invested in FE teaching (to date, spending £24 million to help providers prepare for the introduction of T levels) and announced an additional £20 million in FE workforce development to help increase teacher recruitment and retention. We have also committed to invest £1.5 billion in England over the next Parliament to upgrade the college estate.
Through the Industrial Strategy, we have committed an investment of £406 million in education and skills. Since its launch, we have invested over £1 billion in total to support learners throughout their education. We have also announced extra investment of £400 million in 16-19 education in 2020-21, which is an increase of 7% in overall 16-19 funding and the biggest injection of new money in a single year since 2010.
We are also delivering a long-term programme to reform the post-16 skills system to address national and local productivity challenges, ensuring that businesses and individuals have the skills they need to meet the needs of the new economy. These reforms include involving employers in the design of new apprenticeship standards to ensure they are more responsive to their needs. We are also introducing T levels from 2020, with longer teaching hours and substantive industry placements to provide a high quality technical alternative to academic learning. Additionally, the Adult Education Budget will fully fund or co-fund skills provision for eligible adults aged 19 and above from pre-entry to level 3 (including traineeships) to help them gain the skills they need for work, an apprenticeship or further learning. In addition, we are developing a new £3 billion National Skills Fund to upskill workers and prepare for the economy of the future.
These measures will support the 2017 Industrial Strategy, which focuses on strengthening productivity by encouraging innovation, developing high quality jobs, supporting UK businesses and fostering growth throughout the UK to create an economy that works for everyone.
Further education (FE) colleges can sometimes benefit from structural change to strengthen quality of delivery for learners, financial health, or enhance their capacity to respond to local labour market needs. The College Oversight: Support and Intervention guidance (also attached), published in April 2019, sets out how structural change is delivered in the sector.
Structural reviews, led by the FE Commissioner’s team and supported by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and department officials provide a means of assessing the structural solutions for a college for the future. Reviews assess potential options against the needs of learners, the long term financial sustainability of potential solutions and consult with key local stakeholders such as local authorities to ensure their views are heard and local circumstances are taken into account.
Post-merger support is provided by the ESFA and the FE Commissioner Team to monitor colleges on their performance after mergers have completed.
Ministers are currently considering the report from the Independent Review of College Financial Oversight, carried out by Dame Mary Ney DBE.
The department plans to publish the report, with the government response, in due course.
The department currently expects that 16 and 17 year olds in full time education at colleges and school sixth forms are provided with, on average, 600 planned hours of education a year, although many receive more than this. This is ample time, for example for the teaching of 3 A-Levels or a substantial technical qualification, with time for other activities to support young people’s development such as mentoring, additional tuition or work experience.
New T Level qualifications will start to be delivered from September this year. These are larger and more demanding technical education programmes, which on average we expect to be 900 hours per year including a substantial industry placement. T Levels programmes will receive additional funding to pay for the additional hours.
The government has announced increased 16-19 funding in 2020-21 of £400 million – an increase of 7% in overall 16-19 funding and the biggest injection of new money in a single year since 2010. Providers may use some of this additional funding to provide more teaching hours for some students, for example those who do not yet have maths and/or English GCSEs at grade 4 or above, for whom £35 million of the additional funding will be allocated.
The arrangements for adult education are more flexible as the teaching hours provided relate specifically to what qualifications or programmes individual students choose to study and their mode of attendance is subject to agreement between individual providers and their students.
We want to ensure we have a joined-up education system that is accessible to all and encourages the development of the skills we need as a country.
Philip Augar and his independent panel have made thoughtful recommendations on tuition fee levels and loan repayment, the balance of funding between universities, further education, apprenticeships and adult learning, and we are considering all these recommendations carefully.
The apprenticeship levy is paid by all UK employers with a pay bill in excess of £3 million. Levy-paying employers in England use an award-winning apprenticeship service to manage their funds, make payments to training providers, and transfer funds to other organisations.
Funds available to employers expire on a rolling, month-by-month basis after 24 months, where they have not been spent. We anticipated that levy-payers would use various amounts available to them, with only some spending all funds available to them. Individual levy-paying employers have full control over when and where apprenticeship funds are spent to meet their current and future skills needs, including by using transfers to support the sustainable development of skills in their supply chain or local area. Where employers are not spending funds available to them and the availability expires, the budget is used to support apprenticeships taken forward by other large and small employers.
When the levy was introduced, we responded to feedback from employers and representative bodies to increase the expiry period for these funds from 18 to 24 months, and currently have no plans to extend it further. In February 2019, we introduced a tool on the apprenticeship service to help employers estimate their funds and plan for expiry.
The government is determined to ensure that disadvantaged students are supported in their post-16 education. The national funding formula for 16 to 19 year olds and the funding through the Adult Education Budget both include a disadvantage uplift. This provides extra funding for disadvantaged students (specifically for those with low prior attainment or those who live in the most disadvantaged areas). We will continue to consider how we can most effectively support disadvantaged students in post-16 education, and will continue to keep financial arrangements under review.
We have a number of current and future programmes in place, and planned, to support adults and lifelong learning.
Our adult skills system seeks to improve productivity, employment levels and social inclusion. It supports people who are starting out in their careers, those who want to upskill and those who want or need to change careers.
Adult skills and lifelong learning provision includes:
The AEB fully funds or co-funds skills provision for eligible adults aged 19 and above from pre-entry to level 3 (including traineeships) to help them gain the skills they need for work, an apprenticeship or further learning. It also enables flexible tailored programmes of learning to be made available which do not need to include a qualification. From 1 August 2019, approximately half of the AEB has been devolved to 6 Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) and the Mayor of London acting through the Greater London Authority (GLA). From this date the MCAs and the GLA can use the devolved AEB to shape education and skills provision in a way that best fits the needs of their residents and local economy. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will be responsible for funding AEB learners resident in non-devolved areas.
Part-time and flexible courses are key to enabling adults to access higher education. The government has taken steps to ensure the funding system supports more flexible learning at undergraduate degree level. This includes introducing part-time tuition fee loans to cover the upfront cost of part-time courses, part-time students being able to access full-time equivalent maintenance loans and removing the equivalent or lower qualification restrictions for all part-time STEM degree courses.
The National Retraining Scheme is a new programme which is currently being developed as part of the government’s answer to the transforming world of work. The National Retraining Scheme will help prepare adults for the future changes to the economy, including those brought about by automation, and help them retrain into better jobs.
Our reforms to apprenticeships are benefiting people of all ages and backgrounds, including adults developing their skills. We have given employers the flexibility to offer apprenticeships to both new recruits and existing staff, supporting the creation of quality workplace training opportunities and life-long learning.
The apprenticeship levy is an important part of the changes to raise apprenticeship quality, creating long-term and sustainable investment in training. Our reforms have put employers in the driving seat, giving them the opportunity to develop apprenticeship standards across all levels to give apprentices the skills that businesses really need.
While starts at level 2 have declined, we have seen a significant upward shift toward apprenticeship starts at higher levels. For example, we have seen starts at higher levels (4 and above) increase by 68% compared to the same point last year. In addition, the level 3 share of the apprenticeships programme shifted upwards, which shows a healthier balance across all levels, helping people progress to highly-skilled occupations.
We will continue to work closely with employers to help them take advantage of our apprenticeship reforms and to invest in the long-term skills needs of their business. We meet regularly with business groups and individual employers to understand the impact of our changes and we use this feedback to help improve the system. For example, in April this year we increased the amount that levy-paying employers can transfer to other employers from 10% to 25%.
Our apprenticeships campaign, Fire It Up, is also working to increase the number of high-quality apprenticeships, by changing the way people think about apprenticeships, demonstrating that they are an aspirational choice.
Widening participation is a priority for this government. We want to ensure that everyone with the potential to benefit from a university education has the opportunity to do so, regardless of their background or where they grew up. Significant progress has been made in recent years; in 2018, 18-year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds were 52% more likely to enter full-time higher education than in 2009.
However, we have made clear our expectation that the Office for Students (OfS) will challenge universities to make greater progress in widening access and participation.
For example, we have asked the OfS to explore further the use of contextual information in university admissions, such as whether an applicant comes from a low participation neighbourhood or attends a school that does not send many students to university.
We expect universities to use unconditional offers responsibly. There are cases where the use of unconditional offers can be justified, however the systematic use of unconditional offers is not in the interest of students.
The table below shows that the number of Non-EU students entering UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) over the last five years. Entry data for 2015/16 and 2016/17 are currently unavailable.
First year enrolments domiciled in Non-EU countries prior to study
Academic Years 2012/13 to 2016/17
Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Student Record
In Autumn 2015, as part of the Spending Review and Autumn Statement, the following estimates were published, based on forecasts by English universities. These forecasts only include English Higher Education Institutions and do not separate out Home and EU students.
English Higher Education Institutions
Forecasts of student numbers
Academic Year 2015/16 – 2019/20
Home and EU students (FTE)
Non-EU students (FTE)
Source: English universities’ forecasts, Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE). Figures may not sum due to rounding.
COVID-19 is exacerbating an already negative trend, with a high and increasing baseline of chronic food insecurity being further driven by drought, conflict, and locusts and other shocks. Immediate harvest prospects are favourable in some countries and for some commodities, but distribution is a challenge in many vulnerable areas, even at the best of times. COVID-19 related disruptions to supply chains threaten price rises at the same time as secondary impacts are dramatically reducing the purchasing power of the poor and of farmers who cannot afford inputs for the next planting season. To tackle the factors driving COVID-19 induced food insecurity, the UK is repurposing programmes in agriculture, social protection and humanitarian assistance, for example, our bilateral Commercial Agriculture for Smallholders and Agribusiness and multilateral Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. In all of these we continue to put the poorest and most marginalised at the heart of our programmes to address the underlying causes of chronic hunger.
The UK is one of the main Government partners of the World Food Programme and the third largest Donor (in 2019 we contributed over $700 million to the Agency). We are also supporting other UN Agencies with a mandate to address the risk of food insecurity such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development and promoting synergic and coordinated programmes to maximise efficiencies and outcomes.
Our support to the World Food Programme includes financial support both from the centre and at country level (in 2019 we supported World Food Programme programmes in 26 countries, 18 of which are in Africa), including on preparedness to better deal with extreme weather events, and agricultural issues. We also assist with policy steer and advocacy, as we lead on global efforts against the fall-army worm, assessments on early warning systems and climate change. Lastly, we also provide technical assistance to local production to support smallholder farmers and support cash-based transfers in humanitarian settings.
The UK is very concerned by divisive, racist and nationalist propaganda perpetuated by the military regime since the coup. Our Embassy is meeting with a range of stakeholders, including Buddhist, Christian and Muslim leaders who are bravely standing up against the military junta. The UK also works with partners and other community leaders to improve religious tolerance and social cohesion through facilitating a greater understanding of religious and cultural differences, and promoting dialogue between different communities across Myanmar.
We continue to raise our concern, including at the UN Human Rights Council, at the Race and Religion Laws and the 1982 Citizenship Law which have been used to discriminate against non-Buddhists.
The UK assesses that COVAX is on track to deliver its targets. Deliveries of vaccines have now begun, and COVAX's success in negotiating deals with manufacturers also means it is making good progress in securing and delivering its goal of at least 2 billion doses in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion for up to 92 low- and middle-income countries. The UK regularly engages stakeholders on the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, participating in COVAX decision-making bodies through its governance mechanisms, including a seat on the Gavi Board. The UK is also a founding member of the Facilitation Council of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a coalition of leading international organisations to accelerate development and access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.
Considering the evidence available, we do not believe that the relaxation of intellectual property (IP) rights would be an effective measure to address the multiple factors on which access to medicines depends. The existing IP system has mobilised research and development to deliver new medicines and technologies to detect, prevent, and treat COVID-19.
The UK is committed to supporting rapid and equitable access to safe and effective vaccines. This includes strengthening country health systems, and ensuring that new vaccines are appropriate for various settings, such as rural areas. The UK's £1.65 billion commitment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance over five years includes support to strengthen vaccine supply chains, and improve cold chain technologies. Our support to public-private partnerships such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) also includes developing heat-stable vaccines that can be distributed through existing immunisation cold chains, or without refrigeration.
The Government estimated in 2013 that overseas students (EU and non-EU) in higher education in the UK contributed £9.7 billion to the UK economy in 2011, through tuition fees and living expenditure.
The Department for Education will publish a new estimate of the total value of education exports to the UK economy shortly, based on data from 2014. This will include updated estimates on the financial contribution of overseas students.