“Education, education, education” was once again the phrase on a multitude of reporters” lips as Gordon Brown MP, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and widely tipped to be the next Labour Leader, set out his campaign for improving education.
The NHS may have been largely ignored ““ which was the main focus of the Conservative Leader David Cameron’s attack in the House of Commons yesterday ““ but education and skills are firmly back on the table and at the very centre of politics. If aliens had returned to Earth after a ten year absence to see how things were progressing for this race we call human, they would have had to check that they had actually been away at all! Education and those working within may have progressed and succeeded on an enormous scale, but politics does not appear to have changed one iota.
Where Does the Money Come From?
Mr. Brown has demonstrated in the past his commitment to education and skills, referring to the Leitch Review, which his Treasury Department commissioned and is engaged in examining the skills that employers will require in 2020 for a competitive domestic workforce and therefore economy. It is expected that the findings will be in keeping with the recommendations of the Foster Review of FE Colleges, which stated that the primary task of FE is to provide the skills for the workplace that are required.
Questions still remain as to whether the funding will be made available with a plethora of conditions that could rob it of the potential benefits. The perennial question when any funding increase is announced for the public sector also permeates the minds of those concerned: where, oh where, will it all come from?
The Association of Colleges (AoC) have enjoyed a busy week in the media spotlight. The comment from Sir Alan Sugar in the hit TV show The Apprentice that FE Colleges are for dullards triggered a storm of press coverage, and the AoC Chief Executive Dr. John Brennan invited Sir Alan to inspect FE Colleges and find out what great work is being done there ““ partly thanks to the software provided by Sir Alan’s own company.
Dr. Brennan reacted positively to the statement in the budget that there will be free A-level equivalent education for young people up to age 25, but stated that there was concern over the means by which this would be funded. He said: “With school sixth forms tending to take the most academically able, it is inevitable that many young people finding their educational feet in colleges will take more time to reach A-level or equivalent standard.
“Colleges have been very concerned at having to charge such students for their courses as soon as they reach age 19,” he continued. “So it is great news that colleges will be able to waive fees for 19-25 year olds on such courses. The AoC will be looking to Government to ensure the new entitlement is fully funded.”
Read the NATFHE and ATL responses to the budget right here at FE News!
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