NUS & NSoA respond to Labour Party’s manifesto

Today the Labour Party launched their manifesto, Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS National President said:

‘This Labour manifesto is a truly progressive vision for the country with a National Education Service that would transform opportunities for students. Providing free education for all students is absolutely essential, as is the reintroduction of maintenance grants to ensure that the poorest students are not burdened with the largest debt. It is also very positive that Labour have sought to stop some of the most damaging symptoms of the marketisation of higher education by ending the casualisation of the workforce, and to make higher education more accessible through a system of Post Qualification Admissions. While these measures will go a long way to improving education, it is a great disappointment that the manifesto has not tackled the spiralling costs of student accommodation.

‘We also welcome the commitment to lifelong learning and the free lifelong entitlement to training at level 3 and 6 years training at levels 4-6 will help to ensure that all people have access to the education that they need.

‘NUS is glad to see that Labour recognise giving the people a final say on Brexit is the only way out of this political stagnation and their plans to secure continued access to EU programmes in any future Brexit deal. We welcome the commitment to ending the ‘hostile environment’ for migrants and hope their previous plans to reintroduce 2-year post study work visas still stands. The significant investment in mental health services promised by Labour would be an important step towards addressing the mental health crisis. NHS staffing issues will not be solved without the reintroduction of nursing bursaries so it is very positive that these have been included in this manifesto.

‘Extending the franchise to 16-year-olds is essential to improve the legitimacy of our democracy. We are very glad that the Labour party has committed to do this as well as introduce a system of automatic voter registration.

‘While this manifesto does recognise urgency of the climate crisis, a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2030 is necessary to adequately address this. A review into the Prevent Duty is also not enough – the next government must commit to abolishing this programme which undermines our civil liberties.’

Charlie James, on behalf of the National Society of Apprentices (NSoA), said: ‘Once again apprentices will ask whether they are to be included in the living wage revolution. Are we entitled to a fair days pay for a fair days work or is that just for other people. Labour was coy about whether their promise to deliver a living wage to everyone included us when it was announced in the summer, it’s time to let us know.

‘Apprentices have long identified the cost of travel being a barrier to success. We welcome the announcement that many of us will be able to get the bus for free.

‘The apprenticeship levy has indeed been beset by problems and does not work for small businesses. It’s not working for apprentices either. In an age that half of apprentices do not receive the education that they are entitled to, that training providers are paid for, it is disappointing that no action is to be taken to end the exploitation of these young workers.

‘Where education policy elsewhere is focussed on the learner apprentices seem to be the only people who can have their education dictated by the needs of business. Of all the conservative apprenticeship reforms keeping employers in the driving seat seems incongruent with the rest of the manifesto. The apprentices we speak to in Europe talk about a social partnership with educators, unions and apprentices as well as employers co-designing apprenticeships that work for everyone.

‘We await the guidelines to be set by the IFATE in deciding what is accredited training. We would also call for a much stronger role for apprentices themselves in the IFATE.

‘Within Labours Education proposals there are exciting ideas to democratise the education system, increase funding for school, colleges and universities and a welcome move to broaden the curriculum. But this has not been applied to apprentices. There is already widespread concern that employer designed apprenticeships have narrowed the education that many apprentices receive. It is disappointing that where a narrowing of the curriculum has been recognised as a problem elsewhere the perennial acceptance of a different standard for “other people’s children” remains.

‘Finally we would like clarification on whether the proposal to reverse the fragmentation and privatisation of FE include apprenticeship provision and how will this work?’