Boris Johnson must commit to urgently addressing the further education sector’s issues – no matter what happens with Brexit, said the president of the Association of Colleges (AoC).
Steve Frampton said that he recognised the challenges facing the new prime minister, but that unless creating a robust technical, vocational and academic education system was Mr Johnson's priority, it was hard to see how the other issues could be dealt with.
Background: Raise the rate for 16-19 funding, say MPs
More news: Skills minister Anne Milton resigns
Quick read: Boris Johnson backs FE funding
“The House of Commons' own Education Select Committee warned this week that the education system is approaching breaking point – joining policy experts, employers, unions, and parliamentarians from every party in calling for immediate action. They are clear that failure to recognise the risks our colleges face will have a devastating impact on the country,” Mr Frampton said.
The report published by the select committee urged MPs to place FE at the heart of a 10-year funding deal – and to increase 16-19 funding for the first time in eight years.
Mr Frampton pointed to Mr Johnson’s reference to FE funding in his leadership bid speech: “He pledged to give young people the same access, freedoms and confidence to succeed while funding our amazing FE colleges.
"This is the perfect opportunity to now call on our new prime minister to be true to his word, follow through with his plans for further education and commit to the sector that has been overlooked for so long. We’ll be sure to remind him if he doesn’t.”
Social mobility agenda
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), also stressed increased spending in the sector had to be a priority for the new PM: "We welcome the appointment of Boris Johnson as the new prime minister and look forward to working with him to implement the recommendations of, among others, the [Commons] Education Select Committee and the Social Mobility Commission to increase spending on sixth-formers," he said.
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers' chief executive Mark Dawe said that he welcomed Mr Johnson’s promise to invest more in apprenticeships and technical education.
"The investment needs to be at all levels of apprenticeships to realise the vision that Mr Johnson has set out and funding needs to be made available to the thousands of non-levy paying SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] across the country who are now being starved of the money required to offer new places on the programme," he said.
However, he did warn of the "government's social mobility agenda unravelling before our eyes", and said that new ministers should use the Department for Education’s £5 billion of legacy funding to put this right now rather than wait in hope for a positive outcome from the Spending Review.
Mr Johnson was elected yesterday, and it remains unclear whether Damian Hinds will remain education secretary, or who will be appointed skills and apprenticeships minister. Yesterday, Anne Milton handed in her resignation – half an hour before the leadership result was announced.