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Further Education Funding

Volume 638: debated on Monday 19 March 2018

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we are undertaking a post-18 education and funding review—I am sure that he watched the Prime Minister announcing it up in Derby a few weeks ago. Alongside that, we are also looking at the efficiency and resilience of the further education sector. We need to ensure that existing and forecast funding, and regulatory structures, meet the cost of high-quality first-class provision.

Ministers make great play during these question sessions of the importance of social mobility, and there is no greater engine for social mobility in communities such as Stoke-on-Trent than properly funded and well-resourced further education. The City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College has seen its funding frozen in cash terms over the past few years, but rising costs and inflationary pressures mean that it has really seen a real-terms cut. What do the Government have against the colleges in my constituency?

We have provided £4,000 for every 16 to 19-year-old and an additional £600 for every pupil studying maths above the baseline. We have invested £500 million into T-levels and £20 million into preparation for T-levels. The work that we have done with FE colleges—

I do not think that the Minister should take it personally. Head shaking in the House of Commons is not a novel phenomenon; I believe that it has been going on for some centuries.

As part of the review of FE funding, I am sure that the Minister will note the investment of more than £20 million at South Devon College in Paignton into two schemes to drive technical education. Does she agree that a key aspect of the review will be to look how institutes of technology, such as the one at South Devon College, are being taken forward?

My hon. Friend is right that institutes of technology will form an important part of the mix. I know that head shaking is common in the Chamber, but it should not distract us from the facts: we are putting in substantial amounts of money; we are undertaking a review of post-18 education; and FE is an important driver of social mobility.

Last week, Hull College Group announced the loss of 231 full-time equivalent jobs. It has told me that Government changes to funding for Jisc—an IT services company that provides free IT support to colleges—will set it back another £100,000, perhaps resulting in even more job losses. Will the Minister please reverse the decision, or at least provide some transitional funding so that FE colleges are not hit so hard?

The changes to which the hon. Lady refers were important; this is about fairness and equity. As I have pointed out, a lot of money is going into FE colleges, but we are looking at the efficiency and resilience of the FE sector to ensure that the forecast funding and structures meet the costs of high-quality, first-class provision.