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Further Education Estate

Volume 717: debated on Monday 4 July 2022

We want all colleges in England to be able to provide a world-class education, which is why we are delivering our manifesto commitment to offer £1.5 billion to upgrade the further education college estate over the next six years. We have surveyed the condition of FE estates—all colleges received their own survey—and we intend to publish a national overview of the results in the next academic year.

Significant investment has taken place and is taking place at East Coast College, with the energy skills centre in Lowestoft and the civil engineering and construction campus at Lound. However, a long-term strategic approach is required to ensure that local people have the full opportunity to acquire the necessary skills for the many jobs emerging in low-carbon energy along the East Anglian coast. Will my hon. Friend meet East Coast College and myself to go through its strategy and agree a plan for its implementation?

I thank my hon. Friend for his interest in this agenda. I would be delighted to meet him and his college.

The match funding required for major works is unaffordable for colleges such as New City College. We have two of its campuses in Tower Hamlets, and the college no longer has the facilities to provide the education required for the modern workplace because of redevelopment costs. The maximum grant available through the FE capital transformation fund for this one college is £20 million, but the redevelopment work on the college’s buildings is estimated at £85 million. Will the Minister meet me and the principal of New City College to discuss a way forward, and will the Secretary of State take a close interest in addressing this major outstanding issue for FE college funding?

I was delighted to visit New City College during Education World Forum week. I took a number of Education Ministers from across the world there to see its excellent facilities and the wonderful, world-class education it offers its students. I was pleased that it received, I think, £5 million in phase 1 of the FE capital transformation fund. We continue to be in dialogue with the college into the next rounds. I am obviously happy to talk to the hon. Lady and the principal at any time. We are committed to doing whatever we can to make the necessary upgrades and improvements to the FE college estate.

Last week, Scottish schools broke up for the summer holidays, so I am sure that Members across the House will join me in thanking the staff for the work they have done and wish all the youngsters a very happy and safe summer holidays.

The Scottish Government have invested more than £800 million since 2007 on the further education estate in Scotland. An equivalent investment in FE in England would be £8 billion, not the £1.5 billion that the Government have committed. Can the Minister detail how the college estate in England will be brought up to the standard of the world class Scottish FE buildings without a far greater investment?

In our manifesto in 2019, we said that we would upgrade the FE college estate. We set £1.5 billion aside to do that. I am afraid that I am not in a position to comment on the condition of the Scottish FE estate. It may well be that the Scottish estate was in a considerably worse state of repair after several years of SNP rule.