Further Education and Higher Education: Enfield North

Department for Education written question – answered at on 20 September 2023.

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Photo of Feryal Clark Feryal Clark Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of the potential role of (a) further education colleges and (b) universities in tackling the level of inequality of educational outcomes for children in Enfield North constituency.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Minister of State (Education)

Spreading opportunity is a top priority for this government. In education, ability is evenly spread but opportunity is not. We need to reduce the dependency of people’s education and skills outcomes on where they live by ensuring that in every area, children can access excellent schools, progress to high quality technical and higher education, and go into good jobs.

This government is focused on levelling up opportunities so that every young person, regardless of their background or geographic location, can get the skills and training needed to secure rewarding, well-paid jobs and move up the ladder of opportunity.

To help improve people’s lives and boost the economy, the government’s skills mission sets out an ambition for 200,000 more people to complete high quality training in England each year by 2030. This includes 80,000 more people completing courses in areas of England with the lowest skills levels.

We want to make sure we are raising skill levels in the places where they are the lowest, so that more people have the skills they need to get good jobs.

Skills are a crucial driver of economic disparities between people and places. Boosting skills improves human capital and is a clear way to improve the earnings potential and life chances of people who have already left school.

This government has built a new skills system from the ground up as we recognise that skills are crucial in driving long-term economic growth and is taking forward major reforms set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper: delivering T Levels, boosting apprenticeships, approving Higher Technical Qualifications, rolling out Skills Bootcamps, and introducing the Lifelong Learning Entitlement from 2025.

In November 2021, we issued guidance to the Office for Students, asking it to refocus the access and participation regime to create a system that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds throughout their education.

Prior attainment is a key determinant of successful participation in HE. That is why we have asked universities to take on a more direct role in driving up the standards in schools. The department wants universities to:

  • Work more with schools and colleges to raise standards so that students have more options and can choose the path that is right for them.
  • Move away from just getting disadvantaged students through the door, and instead tackle dropout rates and support students through university to graduation and into high skilled, high paid jobs.
  • Offer more courses that are linked to skills and flexible learning such as degree apprenticeships, higher technical qualifications, and part time courses.

The department is funding Uni Connect through the Strategic Priorities Grant at £30 million for 2023/24. Uni Connect delivers targeted interventions and support aimed at increasing the number of young people from under-represented areas going into FE and HE by bringing together universities, colleges and local partners.

There are three Uni Connect partnerships in London; Access HE works with under-represented young people in North London, including those from Enfield.

So far over one million young people from underrepresented groups have engaged with the Uni Connect programme.

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