Former government adviser appointed to look at planned post-16 education reforms

Reforms to post-16 education announced almost two years ago are to be looked at by a former chief adviser on school standards.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he had appointed Sir Michael Barber to advise on the implementation of the Government’s skills reform programme.

The Skills for Jobs White Paper was first announced in January 2021 by then-education secretary Gavin Williamson.

On Thursday, as part of the autumn statement, Mr Hunt said Sir Michael would advise both the Chancellor and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan on the reforms.

Speaking about education, Mr Hunt told the Commons: “There are many important initiatives in place, but as Chancellor, I want to know the answer to one simple question.

“Will every young person leave the education system with the skills they would get in Japan, Germany or Switzerland?

“So I have appointed Sir Michael Barber to advise me and my right honourable friend, the Education Secretary, on the implementation of our skills reform programme.”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said it is time for action, not more reviews (House of Commons/PA)
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said it was time for action, not more reviews (House of Commons/PA)

The plans set out early last year looked at how to reform post-16 education and training in England to ensure that employers had the skills they needed for the economy to grow.

Ministers proposed to overhaul the accountability system so that funding was better targeted at supporting high-quality education and training provision which was relevant to the labour market.

Speaking at the time, Mr Williamson said the reforms would ensure all technical education and training was “based on what employers want and need”.

While Mr Hunt did not describe Sir Michael’s role as to lead a review, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves was critical.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan
Jeremy Hunt said Sir Michael would advise Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, centre, on the reforms (House of Commons/PA)

She said: “What we need is action. The time for delivery is now, not time for more reviews.”

Sir Michael was chief adviser on school standards between 1997 and 2001.

He set up the original Downing Street delivery unit under former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, heading it up from 2001 until 2005.

He joined educational organisation Pearson in September 2011 as chief education advisor.

Sir Michael is described by the Government as having extensive experience of designing and delivering system-wide public service reform.

Earlier in 2022, Sir Michael chaired the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, which he described as the “most comprehensive review of policing for a generation” and said the findings set out an “agenda for fundamental change”.