The future of further education in England could hinge on next week’s Budget, senior figures in the sector have warned.
As George Osborne gears up to deliver the first Budget from a solely Conservative government since 1996, FE experts told TES that the Chancellor’s decisions could prove to be critical for the sector.
With the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education needing to find £900 million of savings between them, and skills minister Nick Boles warning “difficult choices” will have to be made about the “less productive bits” of the FE system, some in the sector have said they fear the worst.
Last week, a report by King’s College London professor Baroness Wolf warned that FE could “vanish into history” because the current funding system was “destroying” the sector.
And earlier this week, Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna claimed FE’s future “hangs in the balance.”
Lady Wolf told TES the impending Budget was “symbolically important” because it will lay the foundations for the next five years.
“This is a really critical Budget,” she says. “If we allow them to shave away at the FE budget again, it will be almost impossible, another year on, to reverse direction.”
Andrew Harden, national official for FE at the University and College Union, said the importance of the Budget could not be underestimated.
“I think it’s obvious that now it’s crucial: the very future of FE is at stake.”
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