We're going to beat Germany on non-academic learning, says Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, pictured in Leeds.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, pictured in Leeds.
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A new expansion of technical education in England will see up to £120 million invested in new specialist institutes, Gavin Williamson announced today.

Speaking at Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Scarborough-born Mr Williamson set a goal to "beat Germany" in the race to deliver the best possible non-academic education.

The number of institutes of technology - partnerships between businesses, universities and further education colleges - will expand from the 12 currently planned to 20 across England.

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During his speech he revealed that he was working with Durham University and Durham Sixth Form Centre to open a new Maths School, and added: "We will open 11 of these so that we have at least one in every region."

The Education Secretary said he will also form a new skills and productivity board of leading labour market economists to advise him on policies to boost skills.

Mr Williamson said further education was "often overlooked", as he set out the plans for post-16 education at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. He set his sights on Germany, which has a well-regarded vocational education system.

Mr Williamson said: "While past Labour governments obsessed over targets to get half the population to university, they forgot about the other 50 per cent. We're going to put that right.

"Apprenticeships, technical and vocational education are just as valuable as university education and they are at least as important to our economy.

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"We want to ensure that, in the next decade, we beat Germany on the opportunities we give to those taking technical and vocational routes.

"We're going to super-charge further education and set our sights high. We will ensure equal focus is given to all young people, whether they choose the technical, vocational or academic routes."

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said; "The last time we saw the rollout of Institutes of Technology, only two of the twelve were located in the Northern Powerhouse, and the North West missed out entirely.

"Under the previous Conservative administration it was accepted these cold spots, more disappointing as the North is leading the adoption of the next industrial revolution, would need to be addressed if any further funding was available.

"It is disappointing our Metro Mayors and Combined Authorities in great northern cities are not simply seeing funding devolved to them and instead another competition being used. I hope the Secretary of State will consider doing that and avoid another top down process when we have the knowledge and expertise needed here on the ground."

Mr Williamson also promised to expand the number of specialist maths free schools open from two to 11, to ensure elite maths teaching is available for all 16 to 19-year-olds, wherever they live in England.