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Review of FE funding announced by minister

Officials in the Department for Education have been asked to assess how current funding arrangements for further education meet the costs for 'high-quality provision'

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Officials in the Department for Education have been asked to assess how current funding arrangements for further education meet the costs for 'high-quality provision'

A review of further education funding has been welcomed by the FE sector.

During education questions on Monday, Labour MP Mike Amesbury asked skills minister Anne Milton what assessment had made of recent trends in education funding for 16- to 19-year-olds.

In her response she said: “I have asked my officials to assess how far the current funding system meets the costs of high-quality provision in the further education sector and will update the house shortly," adding that the government had protected the base rate of funding for all 16- 19-year-olds until 2020 and will invest £500 million extra per year in T levels.

After the announcement, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are looking at resilience, funding, regulation and the institutional structures within the sector to make sure that we can deliver high quality provision. This is not an external review, but it will draw on the views of providers across the sector.”

'Significant win'

Labour MP Gareth Snell asked if the government would undertake a review of the funding of further education.

Ms Milton said the government was undertaking a post-16 education and funding review. “Alongside this, we’re also looking at the efficiency and resilience of the FE sector. We need to make sure that existing and forecast funding and regulatory structures meet the costs of high-quality first-class provision.”

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association said it was excellent news, and represented a significant win for their “Support Our Sixth-formers” campaign.

“One of the main objectives of the campaign has been to secure a review of sixth form funding to ensure it is linked to the realistic costs of delivering a rounded, high-quality curriculum,” Mr Kewin added.

“Today’s announcement is an important step on the road to ensuring that 16-19 providers are fairly and sufficiently funded. We look forward to working with ministers and officials on the detail of this project and have already shared some of our existing evidence base with colleagues in the Department for Education.

'On the front-line'

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said he was delighted the minister had confirmed that officials were looking into the costs of delivering a high quality 16- to 18 offer.

"We have been working with a wide range of sister organisations to highlight the unfair funding for young people in all forms of learning from age 16- to 18. They have been the biggest losers in funding over the last 25 years and we want their transition from childhood to adult life to be properly supported. I hope and trust that this work will change things by developing the evidence DfE needs to attract higher investment at the next spending review.

“Colleges support 700,000 16- to 18-year-olds across the whole range of options. Their interests are at the forefront of our concerns. It is not acceptable that this part of the education budget is the only one that is unprotected and has therefore borne the brunt of funding cuts. Colleges are on the front-line of this under-investment, and yet are critical to delivering the solutions. With the likely skills gaps created by Brexit, we simply cannot afford to have this part of education underfunded.”

Job losses

Labour MP Emma Hardy also raised the 231 job losses at Hull College in her constituency and said that charging for Jisc IT support – which is currently provided for free – would set them back by £100,000 and could result in further job losses. She called on the minister to reverse the decision or provide transitional funding to prevent colleges being “hit so hard”.

Ms Milton said the changes the MP referred to were important, adding: “It is about fairness and equity. As I pointed out there is a lot of money going into FE colleges at the moment. We are looking the efficiency and resilience of the FE sector to make sure the forecast funding and structures meet the costs of high-quality first-class provision.”

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