A greater focus on technical and vocational education, and a maths school in every region of England were among the pledges made by Gavin Williamson as he spoke to the Conservative Party conference. Addressing delegates in Manchester, the secretary of state for education said apprenticeships, technical and vocational education were just as valuable as University education, but that governments of all colours had been guilty of failing to match words with action. He said he intended to ‘super-charge’ further eduction over the next decade, with an aim to ‘overtake Germany’ in the opportunities offered to those studying technical routes by 2029. Mr Williamson also announced that he would be establishing a ‘Skills and Productivity Board’ which would be composed of ‘leading industrialists and labour market economists’, which would provide ‘strategic advice’ on the skills and qualifications needed in the technical and vocational sector. The secretary of state also said he would be making available £120 million to establish an Institute of Technology in every part of the country, 20 in total.

Mr Williamson also announced that the government intended to open a Maths School in every region of England. Maths schools are 16 to 19 institutions which combine maths A Levels with related subjects such as Physics and Computing. There are currently only two maths schools up and running – one in London and one in Exeter. This is now set to rise to 11 across the nine regions of England, meaning that two regions will have two maths schools each. The secretary of state told the conference that the DfE was working with Durham University to open one in Durham, and there are also understood to be projects in the pipeline in Surrey, Cambridge, Lancaster and Liverpool.

Mr Williamson was making his first conference speech as secretary of state for education since being appointed in July this year.

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