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Further and Higher Education: Quality and Choice

Volume 664: debated on Monday 9 September 2019

3. What steps his Department is taking to improve (a) quality and (b) choice in (i) further and (ii) higher education provision. (912311)

We are increasing the funding for 16-to-19 participation through T-levels, and providing support for college improvement. The Office for Students and Ofsted hold HE and FE providers to account for delivery quality and successful outcomes. The teaching excellence and student outcomes framework and new digital tools provide data support in student choice.

Last week, at the invitation of sixth-former Anna, I visited Cheadle Hulme High School to speak to students. I welcome the announcement that sixth forms across Cheadle will benefit from the £120 million increase in spending. How will the Secretary of State ensure that that funding will help students in Cheadle to access the widest variety of course, opening up opportunities in areas such as high tech, technology, construction, creative industries and so many others that will benefit the Greater Manchester economy?

As part of the funding increase for 16 to 19-year-olds, a key element is to ensure we are able to deliver those high-value courses that are sometimes more expensive to put on for students. A key element of the funding is preserved for that. I very much hope it will support my hon. Friend’s constituents. I look forward to continuing to work with her. She has campaigned long and hard to deliver this extra money for the colleges in her constituency.

22. Will the Secretary of State build on that good start by raising the rate for 16-to-19 education to £4,760 per student, which would deliver what is being asked for? (912331)

Mr Speaker, I feel as though I have to make an apology to the House. Last time I was at the Dispatch Box, I forgot to mention that the hon. Gentleman had been the principal of a college. I said he was lecturing at a college, so I apologise for demoting him.

I am more than happy to continuously look at how we can give the maximum amount of support for our further education colleges and the 16-to-19 sector. We saw one of the largest increases in the base rate with the announcement last week. That is a good foundation on which to build.

The Secretary of State ought to be able to detect the hon. Gentleman’s status and his intellectual distinction from a radius of approximately 1,000 miles.

The extra money for post-16 providers is extremely welcome. It has been warmly welcomed by Havering Sixth Form College in my constituency. However, it appears to be a one-year funding deal, rather than the three-year settlement that five to 16 education providers received. Will the Secretary of State look at giving colleges more long-term certainty by delivering future increases in line with inflation and raising the overall rate for 16 to 18-year-olds?

My hon. Friend raises a very valuable point about the importance of long-term certainty for all parts of the education sector. That was very clearly explained in the report from the Select Committee chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon). We will continue to look at it. It was a one-year settlement for 16 to 19-year-olds. We made sure we gave as much certainty in the schools sector as possible. We continue to look at what more we can do to give confidence to the further education sector on how to invest in the future of our young people.

Will the Secretary of State tell the House what plans he has to implement the recommendations of the Augar post-18 education review?

We will be looking at updating the House later on this year on our response to the Augar review. I met Philip Augar just a few weeks ago to discuss it in some depth. We will continue to keep the House updated over the coming months.

What conversations has my right hon. Friend had with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, specifically to talk about continuing the process of devolving further education to our locally elected mayors?

This is something we are taking a lead on. We are already in the process of devolving many responsibilities to locally elected mayors. I will be having further discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on how we can make that work as efficiently and as well as possible to deliver the skills that are needed for our urban areas.