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Further Education

Volume 670: debated on Monday 20 January 2020

Further education is a crucial sector that needs more investment to deliver its full potential. That is why the Government have committed to putting an extra £400 million into 16-to-19 education in 2020-21.

It has been estimated that there is a pay gap of more £7,000 between teachers in schools and teachers in FE colleges. Does the Secretary of State agree that the current Office for National Statistics classification of FE colleges as non-profit institutions serving households—NPISH status—is hindering the ability to address this growing pay gap?

I am sure the hon. Lady is aware that colleges in England are independent and able to set their own staff terms and conditions. We have committed to extra funding for those colleges into the next financial year and continue to back them with more funding through investment and capital.

My right hon. Friend knows from his own experience the importance of further education, but he has also seen the excellent education and training provided at Dudley College. What assurances can he give that such colleges will have the funding resources they need for the roll-out of T-levels to make this scheme a big success?

My hon. Friend raises a valuable point about how vital T-levels are for the success of our colleges and the whole education system. We have committed £500,000 a year to support the roll-out of T-levels plus capital investment. Dudley College is a magnificent institution that we are turning into an institute of technology. We are rolling out 20 of those across the country. We want people to understand how vital our colleges are to delivering the world-class education, technical and vocational, that this country needs.

More than three quarters of sixth-form colleges do not believe they have the funding they need to support disadvantaged students. The FE sector, the Education Committee and the Labour party speak with one voice in supporting the Raise the Rate campaign to increase per-pupil funding to £4,760. Despite warm words from the Secretary of State, the funding needed has not appeared. He talks about it being a crucial sector, so when will he make good on his promise to work hand in glove with the FE sector by both restoring the position of FE and Skills Minister and raising the rate to £4,760?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her position and wish her the very best in her new role, although I thought she was a little ungenerous in her comments. Just in the past six months, we have delivered an extra £400 million for 16-to-19 education; committed an extra £1.8 billion to FE colleges’ funding; and created a national skills fund to be delivered over three years, worth more than £3 billion. In my judgment, that is a lot of money and a real investment in our college sector. We are giving them the opportunity to achieve so very much. We see the opportunity and have every confidence they will deliver.[Official Report, 4 February 2020, Vol. 671, c. 4MC.]