Fair funding for East Durham College
I would like to congratulate my honourable friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) for securing this important debate, and it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship Mr Hanson
I would also like to complement Suzanne Duncan, and all the staff at East Durham College, for their hard work and dedication to the students in my constituency and for giving me an insight into the funding issues facing FE colleges, and the particular problems facing my local college.
The current Education Secretary has repeatedly described the schools funding formula as “unfair and out of date”.
This description applies equally to post 16 education.
The post 16 national funding formula has been in place since 2013.
Despite significant cost rises over the last four years, the funding rates within the formula have been fixed – leading to a real terms funding cuts in Further Education and a widening gap between funding and the actual cost of delivering a high quality curriculum.
East Durham College are significantly affect in terms of resources and performance by the government’s – college age penalty.
For each student aged between 16 and 18, East Durham College receives £4,000. This is reduced to £3,300 for a student aged 19 – even when undertaking the exact same course.
The ‘college age penalty’ costs East Durham College over £100,000 – the equivalent of three teachers.
Older students are also excluded from the performance tables, which if they were included would show East Durham College outperforming the national average.
It would be helpful if the Minister could explain why educating and training a student aged 19 is seen as less important or valuable as an 18 year old student.
Government’s funding cuts and rising costs is leading to post 16 education becoming a part-time experience, with most students only receiving around 15 hours of teaching and support per week.
Failing to fund education is short-sight and detrimental for our young people and our economy.
In the last two years the Department for Education underspent by £135 million in 2014/15 and £312 million in 2015/16 – and the government should use this money to uplift per student funding.
The government should view education spending as a wasted cost – it is an investment in our future, extending opportunity and strengthening our economy through equipping our students with the skill and training required to compete in a global economy.
I hope the Minister will listen to our FE sector and support the calls to increase per student funding.
There is no educational basis to cut real terms funding for Further Education especially at a time when all young people will be required to continue in education and training until the age of 18.
FE colleges provide an invaluable service to our communities, ensuring all students have the opportunity to obtain GCSE Maths and English if these qualifications were not achieved in school.
This is in addition to the students chosen academic or vocational skills programme.
Cuts and a lack of funding for our colleges and sixth forms is severe and is even more damaging to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Without urgent action there will be:
· Reduced subject choice and cuts to courses, particularly those with smaller intakes such as music and drama;
· Larger class sizes;
· Reduced teaching hours;
· Fewer extracurricular activities;
· Less student support;
-Fewer A-level courses;
-More college mergers;
· Further Sixth Form closures.
Our FE sector is facing a funding crisis.
I hope the Minister will heed the warnings, and commit to an immediate uplift in student funding.
Increasing funding by £200 per student would cost £244 million, which in the most part could be met by the departments previous FE underspends.
The government must link FE funding to the actual cost of delivering a high quality curriculum and education.
An increase in the base rate for 16-19 funding to match that for 11 to 16-year-olds would give parity to colleges.
The Government has already made a funding commitment to increase the teaching hours for the incoming T Levels, but this will cover only around 25% of 16 to 19-year-olds.
The next step must be to address the unfairness for the majority of young students.
At East Durham College, T levels will cover only about a third of the 16-18 cohort.
The remaining two thirds will be funded at a lower rate, reducing their opportunity to gain the education and skills they require.
I ask the Minister to invest in our young people and do not be the person responsible for kicking away the ladders of opportunity that many of us in this place took for granted when we were students.
Education is an investment,
I hope the Minister will commit to ensuring that every student receives a high quality and comprehensive education that will help boost social mobility, improve career options and allow all our young people to flourish and fulfil their hopes, aspirations and potential.