Further Education Funding

I am hugely concerned about this Government’s cuts to vital funding for Further Education. This week there was a debate in Westminster Hall about this and I hoped to speak but was unfortunately not called as so many MPs were present. Here is what I wanted to say:

Mr Speaker, I spent a large part of my career working in further education and I know the huge impact it has on people’s lives, especially those who start life in less fortunate positions.

However, since 2010 we have seen the resources for Further Education dramatically reduced and the impact is being felt for our local economies and productivity in the UK which has been dwindling.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (Sept 2018) shows that since 2010 funding per student aged 16-18 in further education has fallen by 8% in real terms and is now at the same level as during the late 2000’s. Funding for adult education has been cut by 45%, taking away the chance for many to go back to take qualifications at GCSE level or below and this results in a huge barrier to career progression for so many who are determined and keen to get a second chance at education.

Further Education – disproportionately made up of working-class students, has, predictably and depressingly, fared worst and the outcomes are telling. 

For example in my local Sheffield College, 53% of all students come from a disadvantage postcode area and of those 75% of Black and Ethnic Minority students come from disadvantaged postcode areas.

Yet In the last ten years, total enrolments for adults dropped from 5.1m to 1.9m. A drop of 62%.

We are taking away a vital support system for many in our working class communities, robbing them of vital opportunities for the future.

Cuts to the adult education budget mean that there are less people skilled in professions vital for economic success now and in the future.

Over the last ten years we’ve seen:

  • Qualifications for health and social care workers drop by 68%.
  • Qualifications for construction workers dropped by 37%.
  • Qualifications for engineers (including plumbers and electricians) drop by 68%.

These cuts also means less adults are able to learn core skills such as literacy and mathematics to be able to get on at work and in life.

In view of the crisis in our social care and ambitions to build more homes, it is surprising the Government is taking away support to train people to support those vital industries.  

The funding squeeze is also certainly impacting morale for staff at colleges, too.

  • College lecturers are now paid on average less than 80% the rate of school staff.
  • Association of College’s latest workforce survey suggests that average lecturer pay in colleges is £30,100 which is significantly less than average school teacher pay (£35,000) and average university academic pay (£43,000)[
  • The value of staff pay has fallen by over 25% since 2009.
  • Staff turnover rates remain high and the hard-to-fill posts are in engineering, construction and mathematics.

Teaching staff have been left behind, and excluded from the 3.5% pay rise that Government announced for teachers and the recent ring-fenced Teachers’ Pay Grant for schools was not extended to further education colleges.

In conversations I’ve had with teaching staff at Sheffield College, it is obvious that whilst they are key to the College’s success but will no longer make do with being ‘’second class’’ as they put it, as they are paid significantly less than their counterparts in primary and secondary schools.

But of course, non-teaching and support staff are also vital to the success of our colleges, and many of them continue to be on low wages and squeezed by the increasing cost of living.

Unfortunately, the Chancellor did not use his Autumn Budget to ease these pressures for colleges, including on securing viable staffing budgets and raising the funding for 16-18 year olds but he chose not to do so.

This situation is not sustainable and ultimately impacts on college students and staff, businesses, communities and the wider economy.

Indeed, Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector at OFSTED wrote to my Friend the Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee to say:

‘’the real-term cuts to FES funding are affecting the sustainability and quality of FES provision’’ and demanding that the Government ‘’increase the base rate for 16 to 18 funding.’’

It is not a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but about raising the standards for all our teachers across the board and educating our adults and young people to achieve their potential and enhance skills.

So far the Chancellor announced extra resources (£500m) for FE colleges to deliver additional T Level hours and he made an effort at tinkering with the Apprenticeship levy.

However the extra resources or changes won’t address the crucial issues of core spending, which has been drastically cut, and as a result, won’t have a huge impact on the skills and re-skilling agenda.

But, even when he did offer a meagre £400 m to schools for the ‘’little extras’’ in the Budget as he put it, he didn’t even extend this to further education budgets – I think that is indicative of how he feels about teaching staff, but particularly about the regard he holds further education staff. And clearly, it shows a lack of commitment to a skills agenda which will be vital post-Brexit.

With the spending review on the horizon, I urge the Minister to take back the points raised in this debate and the strength of feeling in which they are made back to the Chancellor to urge him properly fund our further education. In the meantime, we will continue the fight for more funding for Further Education and I will continue to proudly back the #LoveOurColleges campaign.


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