Further Education

Part of Opposition Day — [10th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:35 pm on 18th November 2015.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 5:35 pm, 18th November 2015

Of course what economies of scale and large colleges also provide is fantastic enrichment programmes, additional courses and provision that goes so far to prepare young people for the world of work—experiences such as volunteering in different parts of the world, the Combined Cadet Force and a wide range of sports. We desperately want young people not to drop off in their participation in sport at 16, but to carry on and make sure that they are fit and healthy for life. It is those enrichment programmes that I worry might start to fall by the wayside, but they are the very programmes that make sure that young people from the state sector have the same opportunities and chances when filling in their personal statements for university that we see in the independent sector. That sector has been great at ensuring that its young people have every advantage and are given a broad curriculum as well as experiences and activities. It is critical to keep ensuring that there is wider access to higher education, and it is imperative that students from the great sixth forms we have in Hampshire, which have a brilliant track record of getting pupils into Oxbridge, have exactly the same advantages when they are filling in their personal statements as those from the independent sector.

The area-based review under way in south Hampshire—the Solent-based review—has won an exclusion which, to my mind and to those of college principals, is significant: it does not include the in-school sixth forms. Way back in the 1970s, Hampshire introduced the tertiary model of education, but a few school sixth forms have lingered on, and indeed there have been some new ones. The area-based review will not look at those schools, and the principals of the colleges feel, probably rightly, aggrieved about that. They do not think it is fair. They already pay VAT, yet the schools do not. They do not have the opportunity to cross-subsidise. We all know that the funding for years 7 to 11 is protected and significantly more generous than the funding for 16-to-19 education. Within a school setting, it is possible to use the funding for years 7 to 11 to assist in the provision of A-level education, but the colleges do not have that choice. They are paying VAT, cannot cross-subsidise and now face this situation, about which they understandably feel pretty cross, because it is unfair on them, as they tell me.

We know from the Sixth Form Colleges Association that sixth-form colleges are out-performing school sixth forms. We know that they are helping higher numbers of more disadvantaged students, and we know that they are getting better results. In Hampshire, the colleges have consistently delivered high-quality education cost-effectively.