We are committed to protecting the base funding rate of £4,000 per student for the rest of this Parliament. Moreover, the proportion of young people participating in education or training is now 81.6%, which is higher than ever before. Following reforms to qualifications, the system is delivering better quality provision to prepare young people for jobs and further study.
Sixth-form colleges have suffered a 17% cut in their funding since 2011, which has had a real impact on the quality and breadth of curriculum they can offer. Will the Minister, with the Secretary of State, commit to evaluating how much funding is necessary for 16-to-19 education so that it is of the global quality we deserve?
Winstanley College is one of the highest-performing sixth-form colleges in the country and won The Daily Telegraph’s Educate North college of the year award, but it estimates that by 2019 it will have seen a real-terms cut of 20% to its funding, which will fall to a level last seen in 2004. What measures is the Minister taking to ensure fair and equal funding for sixth-formers in England?
It is good news about the performance of the hon. Lady’s college—I thank her for expressing it—but it is worth mentioning that we are investing £7 billion in 2016-17 to ensure that every 16 to 19-year-old has a place in education or training and that we have protected the funding base rate of £4,000 per student. It is also worth remembering that we have the lowest level of youth unemployment on record and the lowest number of those not in education, employment or training. This shows that our investment in further education is working.[Official Report, 20 December 2016, Vol. 618, c. 12MC.]
Over the next four years, funding for education is due to fall by 8% per head, although I note that Ministers have been describing this as “protecting” core funding, which is a funny use of language. So low is funding for sixth forms that schools that have formed academies are increasingly getting rid of their sixth forms because they are not profitable, thereby cutting off large numbers of opportunities for people, often in poorer areas.
As I said, by 2020 we will be giving more funding to further education than at any time in our island’s history. It will have increased by 40%, which we should be proud of. Our investment is working. As I said, we have the lowest youth unemployment and the lowest number of NEETs on record. The hon. Lady should be celebrating that.[Official Report, 20 December 2016, Vol. 618, c. 12MC.]