The following announcements in the Autumn Statement relating to learning and skills.
FREE SCHOOL MEALS
The Chancellor confirmed funding details for September’s announcement that every child in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 in state-funded schools would receive free school meals (FSM) from 2014.
- There will be £450m in new revenue funding in 2014-15 and £635m in 2015-16 for the DfE.
- £150m of capital will also be available to enable schools to build new kitchens or increase dining capacity where necessary.
- £70m of this will be new money and around £80m will be from unspent DfE maintenance budgets.
The Chancellor confirmed that the government would invest £700m over four years in a new Help to Work scheme.
- All JSA claimants still unemployed after two years on the Work Programme will be required to undertake intensive, often daily, activity to improve their employment prospects or put something back into their community, with “swift and severe sanctions” for those who do not comply.
- Advisers will be given the power to mandate claimants to community work placements if their time out of the labour market has left them short of basic employment skills, experience and motivation.
- They will work full time for 6 months to maintain local green spaces, clear up litter or work for a local charity.
- A third of claimants will be required to intensify their job search by signing on daily for up to 3 months. For those with underlying problems, like homelessness and illiteracy, there will be an intensive regime of help.
There were a number of announcements in relation to supporting youth employment and improving basic skills.
- From April 2015, National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for under-21 year olds earning less than £813 a week – equivalent to the point at which higher rate tax is charged – will be abolished.
- The measure will apply to both existing employees and to employers taking on new staff. The measure will not affect an individual’s state pension.
- As a result, employers will save over £500 for every under-21 year-old earning £12,000; and £1,000 for those earning £16,000.
- Nearly 1.5m under-21 year-olds will be lifted out of employer NICs completely, with an average saving of £355 per employee.
- £10m a year will be provided to enable Jobcentre Plus, working with local authorities, to help 16-17 year-olds find apprenticeships and traineeships.
- Those taking traineeships will be exempted from the rule that prevents Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA) claimants from undertaking more than 16 hours of study per week.
- Those who have not achieved a level 2 qualification in maths and English at 16 will have to do up to 16 hours per week of training alongside their jobsearch, or risk losing their benefits.
- After 6 months on JSA, claimant will be required to participate in a work experience placement, a traineeship or community work placement.
STUDENT NUMBER CAP
The cap on student numbers at publicly-funded HE institutions in England will be removed by 2015/16.
- For 2014/15, the cap will be increased by 30,000.
- £50m extra funding for STEM students will be provided from 2015/16.
- It is estimated that 60,000 young people a year gain the necessary grades for HE but cannot currently secure a place.
- The extra cost of student grants and teaching grant is estimated at £720m a year in 2018/19. The extra ‘implied’ subsidy to student loans – ie the cost of students not being able to pay back the loans – is estimated at around £700m.
- The expansion is affordable due the reforms to HE finance already enacted.
- The additional loan outlay will be financed by the sale of the income-contingent student loan book.
- To maintain quality and ensure value for money, the government will maintain number controls at alternative providers in 2014/15 at their 2012/13 levels, but will free them up from 2015/16.
- The government will reserve the right to reimpose number controls on institutions that expand at the expense of quality.
Employers will receive funding for the training costs of apprenticeships directly through an HMRC-led system.
- The government will also invest £40m in an additional 20,000 higher apprenticeship starts over the next two academic years.
START UP LOANS
An additional £160m will be invested in Start Up Loans over 6 years, doubling the amount of funding provided.
- The government launched the Start Up Loans programme in 2012 to support young people who wanted to start their own business.
- Over 10,000 loans have been made and £162m of funding has been committed to the scheme to date.
SCIENCE & INNOVATION
The Chancellor announced various measures relating to the UK’s science base, focused on using cutting edge breakthroughs for economic growth.
- £270m over five years to develop a network of Quantum Technology Centres that will support translation of quantum research into application and new industries.
- A £75m a year fund to improve the research and innovation capacity of Emerging Powers and build valuable research partnerships for the UK.
- £80m over five years to develop a Global Collaborative Space Programme as an international pillar to our national space policy.
- A review, reporting by end 2014, to ensure the legislative and regulatory framework supports car companies to develop and test driverless cars in the UK; and a prize fund of £10m for a town or city to develop as a test site for consumer testing of driverless cars.
- Establish the Higgs Centre at Edinburgh University, named after British Nobel laureate Peter Higgs, to provide cutting edge academic instrumentation and big data capabilities to support high tech start ups and academic researchers specialising in astronomy and particle physics.
- £5m in 2014-15 for a large-scale electric vehicle readiness programme for public sector fleets.
- A new Science and Innovation Strategy for Autumn Statement 2014.