Prime minister David Cameron has claimed that the UK now has “better-funded sixth forms and better-funded FE colleges”.
The controversial claim was made during Prime Minister's Question after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked if the government would acknowledge the importance of sixth-form colleges and post-16 education. In response, Mr Cameron said: “What we’re introducing in our country is a situation where we uncap university places so as many people who want to go can go, and we’re going to be introducing in this parliament 3 million apprentices. That, combined with better-funded sixth-forms and better-funded FE colleges, means that we’ve actually got a proper education system that can really drive opportunity in our country.”
In December, the Public Accounts Committee warned that the declining financial health of many FE colleges would have "potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies". A month earlier, a letter signed by 130 chairs of college governing bodies urged Mr Cameron to consider the "parlous financial state [of the sector], which has been caused by the impact of an accumulation of funding changes that have uniquely hit colleges".
But the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has said that its total spending on further education will be £3.41 billion by 2019-20, up by 36 per cent on current spending.
In the House of Commons today, Mr Cameron also fielded questions from MPs about National Apprenticeship Week, and whether the government had a clear delivery plan for its target of 3 million new apprenticeship starts by 2020.
He said: “We achieved 2 million in the last parliament. We’re confident of achieving 3 million [apprenticeships] in this parliament. We do have a delivery plan. It’s based on large companies continuing with their plans for apprenticeships. We want small companies to do more. We want the public sector to join in with larger apprenticeship plans. And we regularly review progress toward the target.”