In a statement announcing the changes, 10 Downing Street said: “The Department for Education will take on responsibility for higher and further education policy, apprenticeships and wider skills policy from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
“Bringing these responsibilities together will mean that the Government can take a comprehensive, end-to-end view of skills and education, supporting people from early years through to postgraduate study and work.”
This announcement coincides with the appointment of a new education secretary, Justine Greening. College leaders have welcomed the appointment of the first post-holder to have attended a sixth-form college.
Ms Greening sat her A levels at Thomas Rotherham College in 1987, before studying economics at the University of Southampton and going on to train as an accountant. In 2012, she was awarded an AoC Gold Award, after being nominated by her former college. She told the AoC at the time that the college had opened her mind to the world outside her home town and stimulated her lifelong interest in economics. “Further education is a vital step for so many students," she said. "My time at Thomas Rotherham College put me on a successful path for my future.” She was elected to Parliament in 2005.
Sixth Form Colleges' Association chief executive Bill Watkin said he was “delighted “ at the appointment of a former sixth-form college student. “Sixth form colleges are an invaluable asset to the education system and are now playing an even greater role in leading system-wide improvements. Their work has not always been well understood in the past, but the new secretary of state will know exactly how important and valuable they are.”
Martin Doel, chief executive of the AoC, said: “We look forward to working with Justine Greening as the new education secretary to demonstrate the value of colleges. We are pleased that she has a good knowledge of the further education and skills sector and college issues.”
Of course, there is no guarantee that Greening’s policies will be affected by her own schooling, although she has hinted that it drives her belief in “social mobility”, tellingThe Spectator in 2014 “the experience I had growing up, going to my local comprehensive, my family going through difficult times … it’s about understanding what it’s like to start from scratch”.
It remains to be seen how much of BIS’s £16.5 billion budget will be transferred over. The DfE current has a budget of almost £60 billion.