I chair the all-party parliamentary group on students and we provide a voice for students in both further education and higher education. In this place, we spend a lot of time talking—rightly—about higher education, but not enough talking about further education. I therefore congratulate Richard Graham on securing the debate and on the work that he does with my hon. Friend Nic Dakin. It is a real pleasure to see so many colleagues attending this debate; I am sure that it will send, through the Minister, a powerful message back to the Treasury.
I will keep my remarks brief. It is a delight to be able to scribble out many of the comments that I was going to make because so many other Members want to contribute to the debate.
I will briefly make a couple of points about Sheffield College, which provides a great education for 17,000 students from entry level to level six, across 25 subject areas. Crucially, 53% of its students come from disadvantaged postcode areas, including 75% of its BME students. Half of its 16 to 18-year-olds receive financial support from the college, because they come from low-income households.
“will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”
That is exactly the mission of Sheffield College and of the FE sector. Our college has strong leadership. It is ambitious for its students and in its mission to enable social mobility, and it is committed to upskilling, retraining and developing the skills of adults across the city.
Ahead of today’s debate, I asked the college what it needed to fulfil its role, and there were four asks. The first was that within the wider debate on education funding, 16 to 18-year-olds are recognised as a priority. College funding has fallen by 30% over the past 10 years, and that must change. Secondly, it asked that additional funding be made available for adult students. Continuing on from previous cuts, the college’s indicative adult budget—