FE is 'seriously underfunded', warn lords

The current system of funding and access for further education is inefficient and complex, House of Lords report says

Julia Belgutay

Further education is suffering from a lack of funding and the complexity of its learning pathways, warns House of Lords committee

“Much more investment” is needed in vocational education and lifelong learning, according to a House of Lords select committee.

In a report entitled Tackling intergenerational unfairness, the Select Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision says younger people were “disadvantaged by an education and training system that is ill-equipped for the needs of the rapidly changing labour market”.

Read more: Parents still prefer university to apprenticeships

More news: 'A degree of confusion over apprenticeships'

Background: 80 per cent of levy-paying employers have hired no apprentices

FE 'underfunded and poorly managed'

The report describes post-16 vocational education as “underfunded and poorly managed”: “The government’s apprenticeships strategy is confused and has not achieved the desired effect. In addition, the options to retrain and reskill in later life are incoherent and underfunded. Much more investment is needed in both vocational education and lifelong learning to prepare younger generations for a 100-year life.”

The report adds that the dominance of undergraduate degrees in post-18 education "might not be in students’ or the country’s best interest, and it has failed to create an effective market”. It continues: “The complexity of further education pathways and funding demonstrates, at a practical level, the undervaluing of the sector compared with higher education.”

The apprenticeships system is described as "confused", in the report, which says: "Resources raised via the levy should not be used to rebadge training that would occur anyway. There is too little monitoring and too little focus on quality and outcomes. We note the number of changes in the system in recent years, but do not believe failed experiments should be used as a pretext for deferring effective reform.”

Delivering 'real skills' for lifelong careers

The committee's report calls on the government to improve the quality of apprenticeships to deliver “real skills for life-long and fulfilling careers and ensure they are focused on those young people, and retrainers, who are not well served by other education routes”.

It concludes that the government should “substantially increase funding for further education and vocational qualifications”. “Many students would be better served by pursuing vocational educational pathways. The current system of funding and access is inefficient, complex and risks perpetuating unfairness between those who access higher education and those who do not," it adds. "We must rebalance the value attributed to higher education and further education."

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive at the Association of Colleges, said: “The cuts to the education system have had big implications over the last decade. Many young people are leaving education without the qualifications needed to get on in life. Some of the ones who are gaining degree qualifications are often finding themselves in low-skilled jobs.

“We need change and we need it now. To ensure that our young people aren’t short-changed compared to previous generations, we need to invest heavily in our education system."

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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