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By The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)

Robert Halfon MP & Lucy Powell MP: For too long, Further Education has been considered the ‘Cinderella Sector’

2 min read

Education Select Committee Chair Robert Halfon & Committee member Lucy Powell write in support of the 'Love Our Colleges' campaign which highlights the under-funding of colleges, and makes the case for much-needed investment.

When delivered well, skills, education and apprenticeships provide a ladder of opportunity that allows anyone, no matter what their background, the opportunity to secure jobs, prosperity and security for their future. This is important for two reasons: to address social injustices in our society and to boost productivity in our country. Getting this right benefits everyone, and colleges are the vanguard in our fight to achieve this.

As MPs with top colleges within our constituencies – The Manchester College and Harlow College respectively – we have the genuine pleasure of seeing the life-changing and life-enhancing opportunities that these important community institutions provide. We are very grateful for the amazing work that FE Colleges are already doing, despite the pressures they face, and have been working closely with the Association of Colleges to fight for more resources as part of our School and College Funding inquiry.

Despite delivering fantastic outcomes for their learners and meeting our skills needs, colleges get a raw deal in funding terms. According to the IFS, 16-18 education “has been the biggest loser”, with spending per student falling by eight per cent in real terms since 2010/2011. For too long, Further Education has been considered the ‘Cinderella Sector’. It is our job to banish the ugly sisters of snobbery and intolerance and fight for the resources our colleges deserve.

We’ve been looking into this on the Education Committee as part of our school and college funding inquiry, and examining the potential for a long term, ten-year vision for education investment that recognises the vital contribution from our colleges up and down the country.

Our campaign brings together both sides of the House at a time when our politics seems to be more fractured and antagonistic than ever. The benefit that colleges bring to individuals, communities and our country transcends party politics and referendum lines.

And we’re not alone. Amanda Spielman, Ofsted Chief Inspector, the Education Policy Institute, the OECD, the Social Mobility Commission, and a host of others have all highlighted the under-funding of colleges, and made the case for much-needed investment.

We Love Our Colleges, and the fact that FE funding is coming to be an area of genuine cross-party consensus. We hope that government will listen and ensure colleges are funded fairly, so that they can fulfil their critical role as ladders of opportunity that meet our country’s skills needs. 

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