I support the motion. I have experience of FE college. As someone who went to a school that did not have a sixth form and who benefited personally from FE, I know first-hand how useful that can be in getting on in life. I am also a former governor of the FE college in Burnley.
At the beginning of the debate, much was made by the Minister about the Labour Government’s legacy in education. Let me share with the House the education legacy in Burnley. Burnley has a brand-spanking-new FE college built by the previous Labour Government that is an inspiring learning environment. As a governor, I watched it go from strength to strength, providing excellent academic, vocational and educational training, and supporting local apprenticeships and the local economy. It had a 100% pass rate at A-level and it was judged by Ofsted to be “outstanding”. The principal tells me that this is all now at risk. Recent cuts—this is before we consider any that might be announced next week—mean that our college is struggling to continue that excellent work giving life opportunities to young people across the constituency from academic and other skilled backgrounds. All those opportunities will be denied if the college cannot be sustained.
I know that strictly speaking adult education provision is not the subject of this debate, but FE provides excellent opportunities to deliver it. In the current climate, where we are seeking to prevent radicalisation and extremism, it is extremely unhelpful when budgets to deliver English language training to those whose first language is not English are slashed, already, by 40%. The Minister seemed to think it was funny that we were all worrying about what funding cuts might be announced next week, but the institutions know what they have seen since 2010, so they are understandably very nervous.
Those cuts have been administered to the sixth form and FE sector in a way that shows total disrespect to staff, governors and students. The short notice allows for no planning whatsoever for restructuring and long-term, effective savings. This year, funding cuts were announced in March, with a further round announced in July, for implementation in August. That shows absolutely outrageous disrespect to the sector.
This is not a case for political argument. People in all parts of the House have said today how much they support giving young people opportunities for apprenticeships, vocational training and academic training. The motion merely seeks to ensure that that provision is protected. The contribution of such training to our local and national economies cannot be overestimated. Funds invested in this sector are never wasted.