The government should “look very carefully” at the core level of funding for FE ahead of the Budget and next year’s spending review, the chair of the Commons Education Select Committee has urged.
Although he welcomes the additional £500 million per year for T levels and £80 million for Institutes of Technology, he states that evidence the committee has heard so far as part of its inquiry into education funding shows a “stark disparity” between funding pre-16 and 16 to 19 education funding.
Mr Halfon writes: “It cannot be right that a funding ‘dip’ exists for students between the ages of 16 and 18, only to rise again in higher education. Successive governments have failed to give further education the recognition it deserves for the role it pays in our national productivity puzzle.”
He adds: “Further education plays a vital role in tackling social injustice and providing an educational ladder of opportunity.
"One in three college students live in the most disadvantaged wards in the country, yet they manage to outperform independent schools when it comes to next steps. 87 per cent of college students are in education, training or work six months after finishing their course, compared to 82 per cent from independent schools.”
The letter quotes Dr Alison Birkinshaw from the Association of Colleges, who spoke to the committee last week and said: “We have to work back from what this country needs, we have to do our work in envisioning what an education system should look like post-16, including adult, and then we have to work […] what it will cost to fund it.
Spending has fallen per college student
"Politics needs to come out of it because we cannot afford the short-termism that we get currently.”
The letter also cites a recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that shows spending per student in FE and sixth-form colleges is now about 8 per cent lower than spending per pupil in secondary school, while at the start of the 1990s, it was 50 per cent higher than in schools.
Overall spending per student in FE has also fallen by around 12 per cent in real terms since 2010.
The committee has also now invited the chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss to appear before them to discuss the issue of FE funding.
The intervention comes on the first day of Colleges Week – an initiative as part of the #LoveOurColleges campaign for better FE funding.