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Post-16 Education

Volume 605: debated on Monday 25 January 2016

18. What discussions she has had with education providers on reviews of post-16 education and training. (903220)

I appreciate the Minister’s response. My constituency of Redcar has obviously just experienced a huge and extreme tragedy with the loss of our steelworks. The challenge now for our further education campuses is to use the £3 million that the Government have provided to ensure that people get back into work. However, the campus at Redcar college has been under threat, and in the light of the review, there is some concern that we may not be able to retain that campus. I want to impress on the Government how extremely important that is for the economic and social regeneration of our area.

First, I want to congratulate the hon. Lady on the absolutely tireless work she has been doing to represent her constituents at this very difficult time. I am glad that we were able to introduce some flexibilities. For instance, budgets have been used to help people to get HGV licences, which would not normally be eligible for state funding. I had the good fortune to visit her constituency and meet some of the SSI apprentices who have found new places. I do not want to anticipate the conclusion of the area review, but I certainly understand how important this kind of skills support is particularly in her community.

Will the Minister’s discussions include South Devon College, which is the main FE provider for Torbay, and particularly its exciting masterplan to create a new campus on the site of a closed factory? That might give some hope to the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley).

My hon. Friend brought the principal of the college to a meeting to explain its plans to me, and I was extremely impressed by the ambition and innovation that it is displaying. I am sure that colleges all around the country could learn from it.

South Yorkshire is currently undergoing an area review of further education. How important does the Minister think it is, when looking at post-16 education, that all providers of post-16 education—FE colleges, schools and others—should come together to plan strategically what kids need in their area?

It is absolutely important that the area review starts with a proper analysis of all the different provision in the area, including sixth forms in schools. The right hon. Lady will understand that there are hundreds and hundreds of schools with sixth forms. It is hard enough to get a group of 15 institutions to agree on a plan—they have to agree on a plan: they are not “undergoing an area review”; they are conducting an area review, and it has to be their plan—and it might be hard to include schools in the meetings, but she will be reassured to know that regional schools commissioners are involved in the area reviews.