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Further Education Providers: Funding

Volume 641: debated on Monday 14 May 2018

We protected the 16-to-19 funding base rate for all types of further education providers in the 2015 spending review. I should point out that the additional investment for the new T-levels to increase hours of learning from 600 to 900 per session will result in £550 million by the time of their roll-out. We are also spending £20 million to help teachers with T-levels, and there is a host of other funding going into FE, not least the restructuring fund—£726 million was made available by the Treasury. There is also the local growth fund for capital and the strategic college improvement fund.

What the Minister really said there, in a very long-winded way, was that there is no new funding. T-levels do not exist yet, and the funding she has re-announced already exists. Some £1.3 million would have been available to the colleges and further education establishments in my constituency had the Department not redirected the underspend between 2014 and 2017. I simply ask her: can we have it back, please?

As I pointed out earlier, we have a post-18 funding review going on and we are looking at the resilience of the FE sector—

The hon. Gentleman was shaking his head, but perhaps he just had a fly buzzing around his ears.

We are looking at resilience. I was at Leicester College last week—it was a fabulous visit to a fabulous college—and, interestingly, it said that employers and universities are now coming to it. The opportunities for FE colleges to generate income through apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy have never been better.

The Minister will be aware that work has now started on the new £17 million high-tech and skills centre at South Devon College in Paignton. Does she agree that this funding makes the college the ideal place to be one of the first to deliver T-levels?

I do not want to jump a stage in the announcements, but I have to say that South Devon College is clearly doing a wonderful job putting in that new facility and, I have no doubt, working very closely with local employers.

As the Minister will know, Hull College has been one of the recipients of Fresh Start funding. However, a condition of the funding is that the college can spend only 60% of its income on staff, which has led to its having to get rid of 231 full-time equivalent posts—one in three jobs going from Hull College. Will the Minister explain where the figure of 60% came from, and how will she make the process more transparent so that people can actually understand what is happening?

I am very aware that Hull College has had record amounts of funding put in, and we are working very closely with it to make sure that we get a sustainable solution for learners in the hon. Lady’s area. Good colleges, and I see this as I go around the country, are about having good financial management and good leadership, both of which are crucial. I know that the FE commissioner and my team in the Department for Education will continue to work closely with the hon. Lady to make sure that we get the right solution for Hull.