Regardless of which party wins the election, funding for further education will remain around 10% lower than secondary schools, reports The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
Currently, FE students attract funding of around 13% less than the equivalent secondary school student.
How will further education fare under a new government?
As the report states: ‘It is not clear why students in 16-18 education should receive 13% less in resources than pupils in secondary schools, or indeed 40% less than students in higher education’. Further education has been the biggest loser in funding over the last decade. Most areas of education have been protected from funding cuts since 2010, except FE. Spending per student in is expected to continue to fall by 2020, leaving FE funding as low as they were 30 years ago.
The IFS reports that the Labour party have pledged around £390 million additional funds with the intention of aligning 16-18 year old funding with key stage 4, thus falling 11% under secondary school students. Labour’s plan would increase 16-18 per-pupil funding by 8% in real terms over their parliamentary term to £5,800 but this would still leave the FE student worth 10-11 percent lower than their secondary school counterparts receiving £6,500 by 2022.
Whilst the Conservative government has pledged £420 million to further education, this sum covers the Sainsbury reform of switching to T-levels and altering course teaching hours accordingly. Outside of this £420m, the funding per pupil from Conservative and Liberal Democrats is frozen.
Recommendations to the next government
In the last ten years, more than 1 million adult education training places have fallen away taking those learners from 2.7 million to 1.6 million, replaced by apprenticeships which have increased by only half a million from 0.2 million to 0.7 million. Furthermore, the population increase of 8% in that time puts the real term headcount at only 72% of what it was in 2006.
The Association of Colleges calls for “a more ambitions skills and education system” and has put forward 6 recommendations to the next government which will place further education in the forefront of the UK’s plans for sustaining economic growth and scaffolding a fair and effective education system. These are:
1. A skills strategy with increased investment for every part of the country
2. A period of stability to build apprenticeships
3. A fair funding formula for schools and colleges
4. Build strong colleges and institutions
5. Personal learning accounts to boost adult skills
6. Support for people to access education and training.
Our imminent Brexit from the EU has now swung the pressure onto the UK’s own domestic education system to produce the skill that we can no longer import. Further Education is now carrying a critical responsibility which demands that it receives sufficient funding. Unless it receives the funding appropriate to such an undertaking, the whole economy will suffer.