Further Education Funding — [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:56 am on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:56 am, 2nd April 2019

Thank you, Sir Roger; I shall rattle through my speech. I thank Richard Graham for clearly setting out the case for colleges, which is echoed by the big number of hon. Members attending the debate. I hope that the Government are listening.

Colleges provide a bridge between education and the world of work, help industry to find solutions, and secure real work contexts and experiences for students. In small towns such as Scunthorpe, they are significant engines of enterprise and social mobility. North Lindsey College is showing great leadership by opening its new university centre as part of the drive to build higher level skills locally. John Leggott College celebrates 50 years of Ofsted recognising its pastoral support as outstanding.

Success does not guarantee future success, however. North Lindsey embraced the Government’s apprenticeship agenda and achieved growth of more than 30% against a backdrop of a national decline in starts. However, due to problems with the levy, non-levy-paying companies may not be able to provide apprenticeships for young people, which might be restricted as caps take effect. I would appreciate it if the Minister commented on that.

There has been a 22% decline in core funding since 2010-11. The average funding per student for 16 to 18-year-olds is 15% lower than for 11 to 16-year-olds and about half the average university tuition fee. Some 51% of colleges and schools have dropped courses in modern foreign languages; 38% have dropped STEM courses; 78% have reduced student support services; and 81% are teaching students in larger classes.

It is high time to raise the core rate, which has remained frozen at £4,000 per student per year since 2013-14. Recent research by London Economics found that £760 per student was the minimum amount of additional funding required so that there can be student support services where they are needed, protection for minority subjects and an increase in time for students. Raising the rate would benefit 1.1 million young people and the economy. The decline needs to be reversed now. Stabilising the core element of college funding would be a clear commitment to not only 16 to 18-year-olds, but colleges and their pivotal role in communities.

More than ever, as we contemplate life outside the EU, 16 to 18-year-olds are our future—this country’s future—and they deserve to be backed by all of us across this House and by our Government. It is high time to raise the roof, shout out for our young people’s future and raise the rate—that means the proper rate, not bits and bobs around T-levels, a larger programme uplift and maths levels. Those things are valuable and useful, but raising the rate is about the core funding that will make a core difference by transforming the lives of 16 to 18-year-olds and transforming the country.