Anne Milton, FE champion? How the minister went quiet

After repeatedly making the case for an FE funding boost, former skills minister Anne Milton has gone oddly quiet


Anne Milton, FE champion? How the minister went quiet

Among those critics of the government’s somewhat heavy-handed approach to attempting to force through Brexit come 31 October, plenty of respect has been paid to the 21 rebels who backed moves to prevent a no-deal Brexit – and lost the Conservative party whip as a result.

Among them was Anne Milton, formerly our skills minister, who tweeted that it was “with great regret, much consideration and a heavy heart that I voted against the government whip”. She has paid a high price, and lost her place in the parliamentary Conservative party as a result. FErret can only salute her for putting her principles first.

Which is why Milton’s failure to speak up in the last few days about another issue close to her heart – namely, further education – is all the more surprising.

Background: Milton: 'FE minister is the best job in government'

Read more: Anne Milton to be new skills minister

Background: Milton resignation: Sector pays tribute to minister

Banging on the Treasury door

Let’s not forget, this is a former minister who has repeatedly claimed to have been regularly banging on the door of the Treasury demanding better funding for the FE sector.

In April, she told the Commons Education Committee: “I will say it from Westminster Hall, I will say it publicly and I will say it from the despatch box, that FE needs more money. On a social justice level, there is a moral imperative.”

In her final interview with Tes as minister, she said: “I wish I had a crystal ball and could look into the future, but people have said further education matters, so if it matters, then you’ve put money into it. If you put money somewhere else, then it matters less.

“Augar is a very significant document, there’s lots of recommendations in there and the new prime minister will have to have a look and decide, but the case for further education is very clear.”

So far, so on message. Yet when the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) published a letter demanding that the chancellor raise the 16-18 funding rate on Friday, Milton’s name was absent from the list of 93 MPs who signed – which did include Milton’s predecessor as skills minister, Robert Halfon, and a number of other former Conservative ministers besides.

Indeed, even after it was announced that the rate would indeed be raised by chancellor Sajid Javid, a string of Tory MPs queued up to have their pictures taken with SFCA chief executive Bill Watkin and call for another 16-18 funding increase to be introduced later down the line. But not Milton.

To be fair, she has retweeted a few tweets about Team UK's excellent performance at WorldSkills Kazan in the last few weeks. But Milton has had precious little to say about the £400 million funding boost.

Here’s hoping that, free from the Conservative whip, Milton will soon be using her voice once more to make the case for a fair, longer-term funding settlement for FE.


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Wash plumber out of your lair With all the furore about the cost of plumbers, people have been cashing in on the skills shortage in this area and signing up for career-changing courses. Now Filton college has launched a course, aimed at women, showing them how to do the plumbing at home without resorting to the Yellow Pages or their cheque books. So the game could soon be up for those hard-to-find professional plumbers, who are already feeling the pinch as a result of the expansion of professional plumbing courses. Filton college suggests that ignorance of plumbing is a female preserve - or perhaps that women will admit their limitations. Here's what FErret, using his in-built male expertise, would do if he came home from holiday to find the house turning into a scene from the Poseidon Adventure. 1) Turn off the stop-cock (after the future Mrs FErret has reminded him where it is). 2) Call a plumber!

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