The petition of students at Brockenhurst College in the New Forest East constituency,
Declares that college funding must be urgently increased to sustainable levels, including immediate parity with recently announced increases to school funding, which will give all students a fair chance, give college staff fair pay and provide the high quality skills the country needs post-Brexit; further that funding for colleges has been cut almost by 30% in the last 10 years causing a significant reduction in the resources available for teaching and support of sixth formers in schools and colleges; potentially restricted course choice; fewer adults in learning; pressures on staff pay and workload; and further that an online Parliamentary petition on this matter received 40,000 signatures in its first week and now stands at 58,000.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department of Education, together with her Majesty’s Treasury to increase at the earliest opportunity funding for colleges to fair and sustainable levels.
And the petitioners remain, etc.
[Presented by Dr Julian Lewis , Official Report, 29 November 2018; Vol. 650, c. 491 .]
Observations fromthe Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills (Anne Milton):
Further education providers have a vital role to play in making sure young people and adults have the skills they need to get on in life. We are aware of the financial pressures in the further education sector generally which is why we are currently considering the efficiency and resilience of the sector and assessing how far existing funding and regulatory structures meet the costs of delivering quality further education.
We have protected the base rate of funding for all 16 to 19-year old students until 2020 and plan to invest nearly £7 billion this academic year to make sure there is a place in education or training, including for apprenticeships, for every 16 to 19-year-old.
In addition, we have announced extra support for key priorities. We will provide additional funding to support institutions to grow participation in level 3 maths—an extra £600 for every additional student—with two payments of £600 if, for example, they are studying A level maths over two years. The first of these payments will be made in 2019-20. We have also approved significant restructuring funding for colleges. From 1 April 2016 to 31 January 2019, the total allocation of restructuring facility funding in England is approximately £470 million—the total spend so far is approximately £290 million.
We recently announced a pay settlement for school teachers and a specific grant to support this. However, further education colleges and sixth form colleges have a different status when compared with schools and academies, as private sector institutions independent of the Government. Therefore, we are considering the needs of further education providers separately.
Through the Adult Education Budget (AEB), we continue to provide full funding for adult learners who need English and maths skills to undertake a range of courses in GCSEs, functional skills and stepping stone qualifications from entry level to level 2. We have also announced a new statutory basic digital skills entitlement from 2020 to ensure adults can study for specified qualifications in basic digital skills free of charge to get the skills and capabilities they need to get on in life and work. We also recognise the vital role that community learning plays within AEB provision by providing accessible routes for adults to progress, and we fund this in a way that enables providers to meet the needs of disadvantaged learners. By 2020, funding available to support adult FE participation, including the AEB, 19+ apprenticeship funding and advanced learner loans, is planned to be higher than at any time in England’s history. The Department has also taken the steps through Parliament to devolve the responsibility for adult education to metropolitan mayors, which is intended to allow for greater alignment of funding for this kind of provision to local need.
We will be looking hard in the forthcoming spending review at how to ensure adequate funding is available for further education, including adult skills, throughout the next spending review period.
An e-petition calling on the Government to “increase college funding to sustainable levels” was submitted and selected for debate by the Petitions Committee. The debate took place in Westminster Hall on 21 January 2019 and the Hansard record is available here:
You can find our written response to this petition here: https://www.petition.parliament.uk/petitions/229744.