FE must sit at the heart of a 10-year funding plan for schools and colleges, says the chair of the Commons Education Select Committee.
“Given the march of the robots and the rise of automation, it is extraordinary that further education has for so long been starved of cash,” said committee chair Robert Halfon.
Mr. Halfon's comments come as a damning report by the committee urges the government to bring forward a decade-long funding plan for education, and commit to a multi-billion cash injection - including increasing 16-19 funding for the first time in eight years. It argues that schools and colleges at risk of being stretched "beyond breaking point" without swift action.
Background: IFS: FE the 'big loser' in education funding
The report said that the FE sector has been the hardest hit by funding cuts, with post-16 funding per-student falling by 16 per cent in real terms over the past decade.
The report says: “Post-16 education has been cut to the core. We note the [education secretary's] position about post-financial crash difficulties. Other sectors have however moved on. The continued underfunding of this pivotal stage in education is longer justifiable.
“These budget pressures are the result of political decisions that have had enormous impacts on young people’s educational opportunities and undermined attempts to tackle social justice. The Department must act urgently to address the damage that has been done.”
The committee sets out eight recommendations – one of which is to increase the base rate from £4,000 to at least £4,760 to rise in line with inflation. Another is to extend the pupil premium to provide for 16 to 19-year-olds.
Other recommendations include:
- Ensure schools get multi-billion pound investment.
- Increase increase school funding by raising the age-weighted pupil unit value.
- Increase high needs funding for special educational needs and disabilities to address a projected £1.2 billion deficit.
- Implement the full roll-out of the National Funding Formula as soon as feasible, and make the various funding formulae more forward-looking and less reliant on historical factors.
- Ensure all eligible students attract Pupil Premium and overcome existing barriers to automatic enrolment as a matter of priority.
- Secure from the Treasury the full amount of estimated Pupil Premium money that has not been claimed because students did not register for free school meals, and allocate this money to disadvantaged children.
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Forms Colleges Association, said that he was delighted that the report recommends a rise in the funding for 16 and 19-year-olds in line with the SFCA's Raise the Rate campaign which has been campaigning for a £760 increase in per pupil funding.
"With a spending review on the horizon, addressing the chronic and sustained underfunding of this pivotal stage of education should be the government’s main priority and is essential if our young people are to receive the sort of high quality education they need to prosper.
"Today’s report is a wake-up call to government – ministers must plan for the long term, stop neglecting sixth form education and prioritise an increase in the funding rate," he said.
Association of Colleges (AoC)'s deputy chief executive Julian Gravatt said that failing to act on the committee's recommendations risks phenomenal damage to our country.
"Whoever wins the keys to Number 10 needs to put this report at the top of his reading list. Without a robust technical, vocational and academic education system, it is difficult to see how they will be able to deliver the strong economy and thriving communities the country so desperately needs.
"There can be no more delays or misleading narratives about record investment. The time to act is now," he said.