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Sector leaders welcome FE funding inquiry by education committee

Proposals for a ten-year funding plan for schools, colleges and sixth forms will be discussed by MPs to prepare a report for ministers

The education select committee’s upcoming inquiry of education spending, including FE colleges and sixth form colleges, has been welcomed by figures in the sector

Proposals for a ten-year funding plan for schools, colleges and sixth forms will be discussed by MPs to prepare a report for ministers

The Commons Education Select Committee’s upcoming inquiry of education spending, including FE colleges and sixth form colleges, has been welcomed by figures in the sector.

Among other things, the MP-led investigation will examine whether the government should have a 10-year plan for schools and colleges, instead of the current system of three-year spending reviews.

Select committee chair Robert Halfon said he hoped MPs would be able to “help to make the case” that there should be a new approach to funding, similar to that signalled by the prime minister for the NHS.

'Not preparing youngsters for challenge'

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said the select committee enquiry was good news ahead of what is a critical spending review in about a year’s time.

“Our work over the last year has highlighted the poor deal that young people get in England compared with their counterparts in other countries. 16 to 18-year-olds receive only about 15 hours per week in teaching, support and enrichment, whilst in many countries that figure is around 30 hours. The impact on the breadth and depth of their education as well as the support they benefit from is profound,” he added.

“When today’s 18-year-olds finish their compulsory education, they will probably be working until 2070, over 50 years. The skills, confidence and self-assurance they have developed in school and college will need to serve them for a long time through changes none of us can predict. We are not preparing them well for that challenge.

“I am very pleased that the DfE has a project underway to research and analyse the true costs of 16-18 education. We are working hard to support that work and hope it will contribute to a strong bid from DfE for additional funds in the autumn budget and the spending review.”

'Longer term approach' needed

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association said the education select committee’s inquiry into school and college funding was a very welcome development.

“Robert Halfon is right to say that a longer-term approach is needed to funding our education system. All or nothing bids to Treasury every few years, punctuated by small, eye-catching announcements in annual Budgets is no way to fund our schools and colleges.

“If we are serious about social mobility and preparing for life post-Brexit, education funding must be both sufficient and fair, and we will making some practical proposals on this in our submission to the inquiry.”

Rising costs for colleges

Mr Halfon added that the UK needed to move to a situation where education funding was not driven primarily by Treasury processes, but rather by a long-term strategic assessment of our national priorities for education and skills.

“Rising cost pressures faced by schools, sixth-form and FE colleges have led to serious challenges in the provision of high-quality education which can be a key driver for social justice and productivity. The spending review provides the government with an opportunity to help to close the funding gap and it is vital this process is informed by the views of parents, teachers and pupils.”

He added: “Education provides a vital ladder of opportunity for our young people. This inquiry will examine whether it is time to have a 10-year plan for our schools and colleges, and what resources are required to put this plan into action.”

The committee asked for written evidence by 30 May 2018 on the following issues:

  • What the Department for Education’s priorities should be for the next spending review period as they relate to schools and colleges.
  • Whether the spending review cycle is the best mechanism for determining overall expenditure on schools and colleges, and what that level should be.
  • The effectiveness of targeted funding such as the pupil premium, and its relationship to core education funding.
  • The practical implementation of the national funding formula.

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