Further Education: Social Mobility

Department for Education written question – answered on 17th November 2020.

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Photo of Colleen Fletcher Colleen Fletcher Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to improve social mobility in post-16 education for people in (a) Coventry, (b) the West Midlands and (c) England.

Photo of Gillian Keegan Gillian Keegan The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

True social mobility is when we put students, their needs and career ambitions first, be that through Higher Education (HE), Further Education (FE) or Apprenticeships. Our policies supporting mobility in post-16 education will benefit people across the country, including Coventry and the West Midlands.

All young people in England are required to continue in education or training until the age of 18. This was implemented because the small group of young people that were not participating included some of the most vulnerable and we want to give all young people the opportunity to develop the skills they need for adult life and to achieve their full potential.

To support students with a disadvantage to participate in post-16 education, we provide funding for disadvantaged students, aged between 16-19, via allocations to institutions. These allocations include funding to account for students’ economic deprivation (Disadvantage Block 1), and low prior attainment and/or special educational needs, using English and maths attainment as a proxy (Disadvantage Block 2).

The 16 to 19 Bursary Fund targets support at young people who most need help with the costs of staying on in post-16 education and training. It provides funding to young people, aged between 16 and 19, who need financial support with costs to stay in FE.

We also apply a disadvantage uplift through our adult funding system. This results in a funding increase for learners living in the most deprived areas of the country, as we base the uplift on the learner’s postcode. We apply this consistently across the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s ‘formula-funded’ Adult Education Budget (AEB) provision.

The AEB also provides funds to colleges and providers, to help adult learners overcome barriers that prevent them from taking part in learning. This includes Learner Support, to support learners with a specific financial hardship and Learning Support, to meet the additional needs of learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

Apprenticeships offer high quality training opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds and can be a true driver of social mobility combining a job with high quality training. To help employers offer new apprenticeships, they are now able to claim £2,000 for every new apprentice they hire under the age of 25 before 31 January 2021. This is in recognition of the particular impact that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the employment prospects of this group. In addition, our Apprenticeships Support and Knowledge programme supports schools across England to provide disadvantaged students with information on apprenticeships.

It is more crucial than ever before that we tap into the brilliant talent that our country has to offer, and make sure that HE is available to all who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue it, and who wish to do so, no matter where they grow up.

Latest UCAS data from 2020 admissions shows that record rates of 18 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university. However, there is clearly more to do to make sure everyone who has the talent and potential can thrive in HE. It is not enough to just get them through the door; attention needs to be paid to retention rates and graduate outcomes. Our reforms are continuing to open routes of progression, including HE, to enable students to make informed choices.

Through Access and Participation Plans, agreed with the Office for Students (OfS), HE providers are expected to reduce the gaps in access, success and progression for under-represented groups amongst their students.

The OfS-funded Uni Connect programme delivers collaborative outreach activity to schools and colleges in areas where participation in HE is lower than expected, based on attainment levels. Uni Connect partnerships work with schools to deliver bespoke programmes to reach out to underrepresented groups in HE, and have been successful in addressing cold spots so that no young person is left behind.

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