[holding answer 4 June 2007]: We have increased investment in further education by 48 per cent. in real terms between 1997 and 2006. In line with our Skills Strategy, first set out in the Skills White Paper 2003, public funding needs to be focused on helping those without the basic and level 2 skills for employment and further progression in learning. This is a planned and continuing strategy to respond to the skills challenges we have as a country. As part of this strategy, my Department recognises the importance of colleges maintaining provision at lower levels to support progression and flow through to higher levels.
The Department does not hold information on publicly funded post-16 places at local or regional levels. Mark Haysom, the Learning and Skills Council’s Chief Executive has written to the hon. Member with the information you have requested and a copy of his reply has been placed in the House Library.
Letter from Mark Haysom, dated 11 June 2007:
I am writing in relation to your request for information about the effect of budget changes upon Westminster Kingsway College and in particular the assessments of effect on level 1 and other entry level places, and the assessment of the financial position of the college.
The 2007/08 budget allocated to Westminster Kingsway College is £25.8m, which compares to £25.9m in 2006/07. Whilst this is a marginal reduction in recurrent funding between years, it should be noted that the college would need to meet the annual cost of living increase from within its budget.
In return for the budget, the LSC has agreed stretching targets with the college to increase the proportion of full Level 2 places in 2007/08. Across the college sector in London, there is a comparatively high volume of places at entry and level 1, in particular ESOL, but there are fewer places available at level 2. There is a high proportion of the adult population who are low skilled and the LSC with colleges is keen to support employability both amongst disadvantaged groups and those in low skilled employment. To do this, it is important that there is a balance of vocational programmes at lower and higher levels. In 2005/06, some two thirds of adult provision at Westminster Kingsway College was ESOL and we wish to work with the college to achieve a range of vocational places and different levels leading into employment and higher skills.
In recognition of this change and the impact on the existing profile of provision, the LSC with its partner, the London Development Agency, has agreed a £15m package of ESOL Support Funding to ensure that entry and level 1 ESOL places are sustained in 2007/08. The consequence of this additional funding will be that the budget for Westminster Kingsway College is unlikely to show a reduction in real terms against 2006/07. In view of this outcome, we do not envisage that the financial health of the college will be adversely impacted by the 2007/08 budget change.
If you have any further questions about this matter, do please contact Christopher Wright at the London Central area office on 0207 904 0729.