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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:09 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools) 4:09 pm, 7th September 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson.

I thank my hon. Friend Nic Dakin for securing this debate. He has a long track record—it began long before he came to this place —in governing and managing further education institutions. And just look at the turnout that he has got today. It shows the respect in which he is held, particularly on this subject.

I pay tribute to my local college leaders: Lesley Davies at Trafford College and John Thornhill at Manchester College. They run absolutely fantastic colleges, but they face the same pressures as all college leaders up and down the country.

In July, the Local Government Association published a report warning the Government about the failure to address the lack of skills in the UK, which is the fundamental point of this debate. That lack of skills could cost our economy £90 billion a year. The LGA estimates that by 2024 there will be a lack of more than four million highly skilled people to meet the demand for high-skilled jobs. We will have to change.

In Greater Manchester, we are trying to plug the skills gap; I look forward to the discussions that the Department for Education will have about the section 28 designation of the college in the area. Hopefully, the Minister will approve the exciting new plans in the weeks and months ahead.

Those plans need to be approved. With Brexit looming, and frankly a remarkable lack of clarify from the Government on the reciprocal rights of EU workers, there is an urgent need to face up to the skills gap. I normally cover the schools brief. In this country, we have 16,000 school teachers who are EU nationals. We already have a crisis in teacher recruitment and retention, which will only be exacerbated in the future, yet although there is an urgent need to upskill our workforce, since 2010 there has been an overall reduction of £1 billion in the funding for 16 to 18-year-olds. As was highlighted in the debate, the funding for a young person drops by 25% when they reach the age of 16.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, education for 16 to 18-year-olds has been the big loser from education spending changes over the last 25 years. I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe: the Government did announce £1.3 billion before the rise of the House, but they have not told us how that money will be spent, and it will not even touch the sides of what is required, given the funding cuts hitting schools. For many years after 1990-91, spending per student was nearly 50% higher in further education than in secondary schools, but by 2015-16 it was 10% lower.

According to the IFS,

“spending per student in 16-18 education is set to fall further”.

This funding gap becomes even starker when we consider the impact on teaching hours and make a comparison with other countries, as Peter Aldous quite rightly pointed out. The former Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, wanted to compare our education system with that of other countries, as set out in the programme for international student assessment. However, as the hon. Member for Waveney said, pupils in Shanghai receive twice as much teaching and face time as pupils in England. That has to change. How can we expect our children to reach the skills level of Shanghai children when we give such limited time to our young people in college?

Despite the Chancellor’s announcement in the Budget of plans to invest £500 million in technical education, that money will cover only around 25% of those in education and it will not be fully in place until 2021. It does nothing to impact on the cuts that have already been implemented.

Colleges also face confusion over the apprenticeship levy. The levy puts employers in the driving seat when it comes to funding, and we do not know whether moneys will be passed on to colleges in the future.