Theresa May is set to launch a massive overhaul of education for teenagers who don’t go to university as part of her post-Brexit industrial strategy, pledging £170 million for “prestigious” new technical schools.
The Prime Minister said the move would ensure that the half of all young people who do not go to university get the same opportunities and respect as graduates.
May will launch the strategy today at her first regional Cabinet meeting, in the north-west of England, the Press Association reported. It is aimed at improving living standards, productivity and the spread of economic growth around the UK.
As part of the plan to give young people “genuine parity of aspiration” with university students, new institutes of technology will be set up to deliver education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Thousands of “low quality” tech qualifications will also be replaced with 15 core technical “routes” designed to meet the skills required by local employers.
A new UCAS-style system of searching and applying for technical courses could be introduced to give interested young people clearer information and better support.
The PM said: “Our modern industrial strategy is a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain.
“As we leave the EU it will help us grasp the bigger prize: the chance to build that stronger, fairer Britain that stands tall in the world and is set up to succeed in the long-term. And it is a vital step towards building a country where prosperity is shared and there is genuine opportunity for all.
“Our action will help ensure young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future,” May continued.
The strategy will include plans to use the free school model to set up specialist maths schools, building on the high performing Exeter and Kings College London Mathematics Schools. Action will also be taken to tackle shortages in STEM skills.
A review by Professor Sir Adrian Smith will set out proposals to incentivise growth in the number of graduates in STEM subjects and address regional imbalances in the number of students progressing to higher-level qualifications.
Commenting on the plans which will be outlined in a Green Paper, Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “The UK has some of the best universities in the world and our schools are improving, yet for too long technical education for school leavers has been neglected - with large differences in skill levels between regions.
“We must improve skills and opportunities so we can close the gap between the best people, places and businesses and the rest.”
But a number of Labour MP’s criticised the strategy as “spin”:
Shadow business secretary Clive Lewis questioned how much money the Government was investing in its strategy.
“This belated attempt to develop a proper industrial strategy is a step in the right direction, but once again what the Tories are offering looks like too little too late,” the Labour frontbencher said.
“The £170 million announced for vocational education, for example, will do little to plug the £1.15 billion hole in the Adult Skills Budget created by Tory cuts since 2010.”