Further education colleges have been given a glimmer of hope that their funding woes could eventually ease.
Speaking at the Association of Colleges’ annual conference in Birmingham yesterday, skills minister Nick Boles promised to speak up on behalf of college principals who have suffered as a result of cuts to government funding.
“I will make the argument, as will other ministers in this area, that this sector has already taken a great deal of pain, dealt with it admirably, and there is a limit to how far that can go,” he told delegates.
He said colleges had the right to demand a ‘first principles debate’ about the entirety of education funding and where it should go.
However, he said any conversation would have to wait until the next spending review.
Labour’s shadow skills minister Liam Byrne also said more money could be found for the sector.
He said he wanted to deliver a “big growth plan” for FE and to see stronger FE colleges that were “bigger players”.
He pledged to “knit together” the “fractured” tertiary education system, which he said would unlock budgets “monopolised” by universities for use in the FE sector.
“There is money available being boxed off in the wrong way,” he added
The AoC has called for a “once in a generation” review of education funding and an end to the ring fencing of cash for 5-16-year-olds.
It said colleges have suffered more than any other education area under this government, including from a 17.5 per cent cut to funding for 18-year-olds.
The AoC said the funding rate for 16- to 18-year-olds was at least 22 per cent less than that of 11- to 16-year-olds and less than half the rate of university students.
Its chief executive Martin Doel welcomed Mr Boles’ comments.
“It is good to have a supportive minister in there fighting for colleges,” he told TES. “We hope his efforts bear fruit.”
AoC demands ‘once in a generation’ review - October 2014
Funding cuts are stripping post-16 education 'to the bone' - April 2014