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Further Education: Teachers’ Pay

Volume 793: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to fund further education teachers’ pay increases.

My Lords, all teachers are equally important to us. However, further education providers, including sixth-form colleges, are private sector institutions, independent of government. It is for individual FE employers to agree local pay structures, with unions, based on local needs. We are currently considering the efficiency and resilience of the FE sector, and assessing how far existing funding and regulatory structures meet the costs of delivering quality further education, ahead of the spending review.

But, my Lords, the Government do have an input into this. This is Colleges Week and we should acknowledge the part which further education colleges play in education and English education, with apprenticeships, with further technical and academic qualifications, and with adult learning. They have been lumbered with the wretched GCSE and maths resits, which really are an abomination that the Government need to reconsider. Can the Minister say why, in the last 10 years, college funding has been cut by around 30% and the value of staff pay has fallen by 25%? Why has the recently ring-fenced teachers’ pay grant for schools not been extended to FE colleges? The Government after all do have a part to play in this.

My Lords, to reiterate our acknowledgment of the great role FE colleges play, more than eight out of 10 are judged “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted and, in the most recent data, 58% of pupils leaving go on to jobs and 22% go on into further learning. We absolutely recognise that. There are a couple of figures that might interest the noble Baroness. According to the ONS earnings data—which is, of course, only a survey—when accounting for inflation, FE teacher pay in England has remained stable since 2013. The other point—to pull on some of the broader strands that the noble Baroness mentioned—is that, by 2020, funding available to support adult FE participation, including the adult education budget, the 19-plus apprenticeship funding and advanced learner loans, is planned to be higher than at any time in our recent history.

My Lords, if FE colleges are doing such a good job—the Minister says that eight out of 10 of them are of high quality—why is it that Conservative Governments always fail to resource them adequately? Could he tell the House how he thinks the Government’s industrial strategy, which is dependent on a more skilled workforce, can be implemented while FE colleges are being decimated and their staff are leaving in droves?

My Lords, we have given a number of different strands of support to the sector. We have a strategic college improvement fund to help colleges improve and build partnership capacity. We launched National Leaders of Further Education in October last year, empowering the best principals and senior leaders across FE to spread their expert knowledge. We have also created an FE strategic leadership programme, run by the Education and Training Foundation, a sector-owned body responsible for professional standards in the sector.

My Lords, can we also include the Workers’ Educational Association in this discussion? It is doing profoundly interesting work in getting people out of long-term unemployment and into work and education. We would like to know what the Government’s plans are to support the Workers’ Educational Association because of the work that it does.

My Lords, I do not have that information to hand, but I will write to the noble Lord with some further information.

The Government are always, quite rightly, banging on about the importance of skills and skills training. We have heard from my noble friend that there has been a 30% cut in the FE budget and, in adult education, there has been a 61% cut. How on earth will we attract staff to develop the teaching to develop those skills? He mentioned—I was quite surprised about this—that the Government are looking at this sector. When can we expect to hear about this assessment of the sector?

My Lords, we have reformed the high-needs funding and disadvantaged funding in this sector and we are now putting in some £520 million for disadvantaged students. As I mentioned earlier, we have the strand of support that I have already discussed. If we look at apprenticeships on their own, for example, we see that we have nearly doubled the amount of money going into apprenticeships since 2010. By 2020, it will be £2.45 billion, which is double the amount in 2010. The other thing we have done to try to support the sector is offer sixth-form colleges, where appropriate, the opportunity to academise, which gives them a VAT-recovery opportunity. So we are looking all the time at how we can support this important sector.

My Lords, the Minister beggars belief when he says in response to my noble friend Lady Blackstone that various strands of additional funding have gone into further education colleges. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported recently that funding per student in sixth-form colleges and further education colleges has fallen by 20% since 2010. How can the average funding per student in those sectors be £4,000, compared to more than double that for universities with their tuition fees? In Colleges Week, which the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, mentioned, is there any possibility of the Minister saying that the Government will properly fund the new cost pressures on further education colleges of pay and pensions increases to ensure that an age group essential to filling the skills gaps in the economy in future years will not be further disadvantaged?

My Lords, we have already committed to holding baseline funding per pupil until the next spending review in 2020, and I can offer a couple more examples of where we are supporting the sector. We have the exceptional financial support scheme, the area reviews and the restructuring facility, with a fund of some £700 million that has been made available and is being drawn down upon to assist colleges in rationalising and improving—so I reiterate our strong support for this sector.

My Lords, listening to questions from noble Lords to the Minister this afternoon makes me recall the report of the ad hoc Committee on Social Mobility on the transfer from school to work, which I had the privilege to chair. Every single point raised by noble Lords this afternoon was raised in our report. What is the point of us having committees if the Government do not take any notice?

My Lords, we certainly do take notice. As I said in my opening Answer to the noble Baroness, we are looking at this whole area ahead of the next spending review.