Government publishes Levelling Up White Paper

The Government finally published its Levelling Up White Paper last week.

GMLPF will be running a Take 30 session on the Levelling Up White Paper, looking at opportunities and implications for the skills agenda and learning providers.

It is fair to say that The Levelling Up agenda is still in its embryonic stage. The Government has failed to articulate what Levelling Up is to some extent. It is, therefore, still a concept that is not fully understood. However, it is clear that the Government wishes to close the performance and opportunity gap between wealthier and less developed parts of the UK, seeking to support greater economic convergence and reduce the disparities with the SE and London in particular.

With regards to skills, it is likely that Levelling Up priorities will continue to evolve and emerge in tandem with the launch and implementation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. There is a strong focus on the role of the private sector in levelling up, and it is hoped that this will translate into a significant role for ILPs.

There were some significant skills elements set out in the Levelling Up White Paper including:

UK Shared Prosperity Fund – To become operational in 2023

The White Paper signalled that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (value £2.6 billion) will be used to support levelling up activities and investment in three main areas, including: improving communities and place, people and skills, and supporting local business.

Initial guidance for the fund, said it will focus on communities and place and local business interventions initially in 2022-23 and 2023-24 with increasing focus on people and skills from 2024-25 onwards.

With regards to Skills, the focus of the people and skills strand, the Government has signalled that it will boost investment in core skills and support increased numbers of adults to progress into employment.

New “Elite” Sixth Form

The White Paper referenced the creation of new 16 to 19 free schools, essentially sixth forms that will help “ensure that talented children from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to a college, school sixth form or 16-19 academy, with a track record of progress on to leading universities”.

These new free schools can be established in 55 education investment areas (EIAs), areas that generally have lower attainment rates, and each of the 6 LCR boroughs will be eligible to access support.

It is unclear how these will operate and align with some of the excellent sixth form colleges we have in the LCR ie Cronton, KGV and Birkenhead and local UTCs. It may be the case that specialist, subject-specific sixth forms are established mirroring the work undertaken by the University of Liverpool in establishing a maths school.

The White Paper is clear that these new free schools will be focussed explicitly on academic education and will focus on progression to Universities, with a likely focus on progression to “leading” or Russell Group institutions.

A skills mission

The Government has set out twelve levelling up “missions” and one of these relates to skills. It is the Government’s desire to increase the number of adults in training and to improve attainment rates. By 2030 the Government wants 200,000 more people every year in training and to increase the number of adults achieving a qualification or learning aim. It is very much focused on raising skills levels and linking into the needs of the local economy and success will be measured by the number of 19+ FE and skills achievements (not including community learning).

The Government will also explore other indicators and measures including Apprenticeship starts and achievements per 1,000 (population), the percentage of 16- to 64-year-olds with qualifications at level 3 and above and participation of those aged 19 and over in Further Education. These targets will be underpinned by further measures for 50 areas that are considered to have the greatest skills challenges.

A key feature of the Levelling Up programme will be the Multiply Initiative, reflecting the Government’s desire to raise standards in Mathematics.

As indicated earlier, it is our intention to run a Take 30 session on the Levelling Up agenda and then on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, helping members to understand and respond to any opportunities.