Avoiding a ‘“lost generation” must be a top priority for the city’s next mayor, say leaders of London's further education colleges.
In an open letter sent to the mayoral candidates, London’s FE leaders call on the next mayor of London to restore the adult education budget to 2008 levels, when it was £640 million, to ensure the capital has the resources it needs to support Londoners to retrain and reskill.
They also say the next mayor should urgently address the 17.5 per cent gap in funding between 17- and 18-year-olds. The leaders call for the funding base rate for 16- to 18-year-olds to be increased, and want the new mayor to support more low-paid workers to take courses that improve their skills and progression opportunities, as well as to encourage more people to take up the digital skills entitlement and access the new Lifetime Skills Guarantee.
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The London mayoral elections take place on 6 May. The letter is signed by 37 college groups and colleges. The letter states: “Despite the vital role that colleges play, all too often our resources and expertise can be poorly understood, underutilised and insufficiently funded in relation to other parts of the education and skills system.
Call for more funding for London colleges
“In recent years, cuts to funding and wide-ranging reforms have had a long-lasting impact on the sector and on our colleges. We need the next mayor to continue to work with us to address these challenges and to build on the current positive platform and partnership for recovery.”
Dr Sam Parrett, chief executive and group principal of London and South East Colleges Group, said the incoming mayor of London has a “huge task” in terms of supporting the rebuilding of London’s economy and its communities after such a tumultuous year. “Further education has always been fundamental to social mobility, giving people from all backgrounds access to improved progression and employment opportunities. The pandemic has catalysed the need for us to widen participation," she said.
"Reskilling and upskilling are crucial to the capital’s economic recovery, and London’s colleges are ready to play a leading role in this. But to do this effectively, the sector needs fair and adequate funding and support. This must include an increased AEB [adult education budget] and more funding for 16- to 18-year-olds, as well as recognition of the genuine social value that FE provides.
“The incoming mayor of London has a huge task in terms of supporting the rebuilding of London’s economy and its communities after such a tumultuous year, but it is also a time for great opportunity.
"We look forward to working with the new mayor to help ensure that young people and adults have access to the education opportunities they deserve and need, so that London can thrive once again.”
Gerry McDonald, chief executive and group principal of New City College, added that the next mayor needed to pledge to increase college funding. He said: “London’s colleges are at the heart of local communities and the centre of the capital’s economy.
"Colleges have proven that we can respond to skills challenges quickly and support people effectively to get into work, progress in their careers and now, more than ever, to adapt and reskill. We want to do more. Devolution of funding has been positive, and we have a strong platform to work from.
"We trust that London's next mayor will recognise the true value of colleges by pledging increased funding and working with us to continue to shape policy and keep skills high on the agenda for London.”