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Government must act on T level recruitment and close the gap between school and college staff, says AoC

The Government needs to act urgently on T level recruitment and share how it plans to close the pay gap between school and college staff, says the Association of Colleges.

In an open letter sent to education secretary Gillian Keegan today, AoC chief executive David Hughes raises five areas of concern with government: college staff pay, enrolments this academic year, T Levels and qualification defunding, capital funding and the reclassification of colleges as public sector organisations.

In the letter, Mr Hughes says “the numbers starting T Levels is disappointing and falling short of your ambitions and plans” and “a large part of this is that many potential T Level students did not achieve good GCSEs and are therefore not ready.”

The letter from AoC adds there are “longstanding deep concerns” about the defunding of existing qualifications and therefore asks for discussion with Department for Education officials on adjusting the rollout plan for T levels, a review on the appropriate flexibilities round placements, and a plan for how T levels are promoted to parents, employers and students, given that the Advanced British Standard has been announced.

The letter also highlights exclusive data from AoC pointing towards a large increase in the number of students needing to resit GCSE English and maths, and the logistical and teaching and learning pressure this is putting on colleges.

On FE pay, Mr Hughes recognises the recent funding boost from government to the sector, but stresses that it is not enough to ensure that all colleges can make significant pay awards this year.

“The extra funding has helped for this year, but there remains a substantial gap in pay (around £9,000) between schools and colleges for teaching staff,” he writes. “For those colleges with a larger adult provision and for the Institutes of Adult Learning, the gap will likely be wider because they did not benefit as much or even at all from the additional funding.”

AoC asks for the Department for Education to consider how the pay award can be rewarded differently next year, and to make an assessment on how the pay gap of £9,000 between schools and colleges can be bridged.

The letter also calls for clarity on capital funding. While large parts of the school sector have been affected by RAAC, just six colleges in England have confirmed cases. This reflects the sector’s strong track record of being able to manage their own estates. However, Mr Hughes calls for a new condition survey to determine the need for more capital funding, and for discussions around the need for high-quality technical facilities.

He says he would welcome discussions on “how DfE can provide a more coherent and strategic capital funding regime to allow colleges to meet capacity and condition investment whilst ensuring that the college estate is net zero as soon as possible”.

In the letter, Mr Hughes also urges the government to prioritise removing VAT on college funding and providing a local government pension fund guarantee, to scrap plans to change the college year-end, and allow colleges to borrow funding to invest in estates, facilities, equipment and money-saving net zero works.  

The letter can be read in full here.

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