I beg to move,
That this House
believes that a 21st century economy cannot be built on falling investment in education;
notes that the 16-19 education budget fell by 14 per cent in real terms over the last Parliament, and that many colleges are reporting severe financial difficulties, including no longer offering courses in subjects key to our country’s competitiveness;
further notes that over 100 chairs of further education colleges have warned that further cuts to 16-19 funding will tip their colleges over the precipice, and risk the nation’s productivity;
believes that, given that the participation age has now risen to 18 years old, it makes no sense for the post-16 education budget to be treated with less importance than the 5-16 schools budget;
further believes there should be a joined-up approach to education across departments;
and calls on the Government to protect the education budget in real terms, from the early years through to 19 years old.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
“A good education shouldn’t be a luxury—the preserve of those living within a certain postcode or those who can afford it. It should be something everyone in this country can get…if we don’t educate the next generation properly, we will not secure Britain’s future.”
Those are not my words; they are the words of the Prime Minister just before the election, and I wholeheartedly agree with them. Indeed, I am sure that every parent and member of the public would agree that the route to success for a country lies in ensuring the best possible education for our children. Education is a down payment on the future success of our economy. I do not doubt that the Secretary of State for Education agrees with me, too. Yet as we approach the comprehensive spending review next week, I am concerned that she is losing the argument with her Treasury colleagues. That is why we have called this debate: to give her a bit of moral support in her battle to stop further, damaging wrong-headed cuts to the education budget.
In all honesty, I am perplexed that we are having to have this debate at all today. Conservative rhetoric at the election may have fooled many parents that the whole education budget was being protected, when we all know that the reality is far from that. If the principle exists that education is so important that we should shield schools’ budgets—and we absolutely should—why does the principle stop at GCSEs and not extend to A-levels and other post-16 qualifications? That is the central question, and I hope that we shall hear a real answer from the Secretary of State today. Why do the Government ascribe less value to the education of 16 to 19-year-olds?