£400m for further education? Can we really believe it?

Sarah Simons is struggling to follow this week's political developments. Does the extra cash for FE really exist?
6th September 2019, 6:03am


£400m for further education? Can we really believe it?

£400m For Further Education? Can We Really Believe It?

When I was pregnant with my son, I threw up all the time. Not just a delicate tummy or a little light morning sickness, but waves of vomit surging out of the mouth and nose simultaneously 10, 12 times a day or more. It started about two months in and continued throughout. I leapt at every bit of solicited and unsolicited advice on how to stop the sickness but nothing worked.

At four months or so, I was no longer safe to drive. I had assumed my body would have some sort of self-preservation mechanism that would stop me doing a surprise yet forceful chunder when operating heavy machinery (a car), but no. So I conceded to "rest" until my son made his casual appearance - two weeks late, three days of labour and an emergency C-section later.

Background: Can we possibly believe Boris Johnson on FE?

More on this: £400m boost for colleges: 16-18 funding finally raised

Opinion: 'Right now I can't see much evidence of "British values" - so let's just teach our children to be decent'

Besotted by news

While I didn't get the energised glowy experience that some pregnant women are dealt, dozing on the sofa with a sick bucket at the ready for all those months did give me one gift (well, two if you count the baby) - I became besotted by the news. We'd recently got cable TV (this is 16 years ago now) and instead of lurching between reality TV and sit-coms I rarely strayed from BBC News 24, as it was then, giving my husband enthusiastic commentaries on subjects I'd only just learned existed.

I don't know if that magnetic pull to world events was linked to my harbouring of a new person, or if it was just because it was the longest chunk of time that I'd been in front of the telly with very little else to do. But it stuck. And I've been keen on keeping up to date with world affairs ever since.

Highly unpredictable 

I'm flagging this week though. The events kicking off in Westminster are the biggest British political upset in my lifetime. But I'm not glued to BBC News or even, like some shocked colleagues, hooked on the BBC Parliament channel, frowning with curiosity at the complicated and highly unpredictable televised play. No, I'm overwhelmed by it, instead flicking onto the soothing comfort of The Great British Bake Off , or if I really need a TV cuddle, the QVC shopping channel.

And I'm someone who's stayed up all night to follow many a divisive election or globe-rattling event, so this rare bout of news avoidance is somewhat counterintuitive. For me, at this point it feels like you have to be a political expert, rather than an enthusiastic news junkie in order to have any sort of grasp of what's going on.

I know the characters whose values seem aligned with my own and I know those whose don't. I'm not a Boris fan. I may have mentioned it…  But since it seems like laws are being Tippexed out and rewritten day by day in some Commons' backroom, to suit whatever the new power move is, I haven't the slightest clue about the game. The words "purge" and "rebel alliance" have come up quite a lot this week, which doesn't sound ideal…

Questions for education

I think the most pressing question for education is (and yes "I think" because let's be honest: no one is sure of anything politically any more and if they say they are, then they're a fool) whether or not the surprise wad of cash that we are all promised is:

  1. Even remotely plausible. If so, it seems there is a magic money tree after all.
  2. Only an "election promise". Similar to a pinky promise but not as legally binding.
  3. Just words to distract us. In which case I would have preferred the Wham Rap!
  4. A real thing. How marvellous. Well, OK, not marvellous, but it's a start.

Of course all of the above is irrelevant if something (else) catastrophic has happened to the governmental status quo. And it might have by the time these thoughts are published. Aaaah fuck it, I'm off to my sofa to pop Mary Berry on low and have a nap. Wake me when it's all over.

Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands and is the director of UKFEchat. She tweets @MrsSarahSimons

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