16-to-19 Education Funding — [David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:46 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 3:46 pm, 7th September 2017

I completely agree. Many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend Mike Hill, are really concerned about the impact on their facilities.

There are common threads in the nature of the unfair funding formula. These are questions that the Minister must address, and we are hopeful on this side of the House that she will do that in a fair and open manner. There have been significant cost rises over the last four years and the funding rates within the formula have been fixed. That has led to real-term funding cuts in further education. In particular, in east Durham, an area of high deprivation that I represent, the formula significantly affects resources. By an anomaly referred to as the college age penalty, for each student between 16 and 18-years-old East Durham College receives £4,000, but that is reduced to £3,300 for a student aged 19, even when such students are undertaking exactly the same college courses. East Durham College estimates that this college age penalty costs it over £100,000 a year—the equivalent of three teachers. It would be helpful if the Minister could, in her concluding remarks, explain why educating and training a student aged 19 is seen as less important or valuable than educating an 18-year-old student.

The Government’s funding cuts and rising costs mean that post-16 education is becoming a part-time experience. Other hon. Members have referred to students receiving only 15 hours a week of teaching and support, which is inadequate, and compares poorly with our European competitors. We are failing to fund education. That is short-sighted and detrimental to our young people and our economy.

Subject choices are being reduced and courses cut, particularly those run by colleges with smaller intakes and those that provide services to rural areas, as Members from all parties have mentioned. The current funding crisis will lead to larger class sizes, unavailability of subjects such as music and drama, reduced teaching hours, fewer extracurricular activities and less student support. There will be further sixth-form closures and reductions in A-level courses—although the Government are demanding greater rigour—and more college mergers.

I support the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe. I ask the Minister to invest in our young people. She should not be the Minister responsible for kicking away the ladders of opportunity that many of us in this House took for granted when we were students. Education is an investment. I hope that she will commit to ensuring that every student can receive a high-quality and comprehensive education.