From education to employment

FE responds to more adult skills cuts

The government has announced further cuts to adult skills funding, as well as plans to reduce the budget for teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL).

Below is a selection of response from leaders in the eduction sector:

David Hughes, chief executive of National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), said:

“The 3.9% cut to non-Apprenticeship Adult Skills Budget (ASB) comes after multi-year cuts which have greatly reduced chances for people to learn. The cuts are also the first of potentially three to FE colleges, with 16-19 and higher education still unclear. These further cuts come on the same day as the NAO report which set out the very real financial challenges colleges are facing, and of course this only increases the pressure.

“Once again the priority of apprenticeships is clear. There is no doubt that apprenticeships have an important role in addressing the combination of skills shortages, skills gaps and low productivity that are threatening the future prospects for sustained economic growth. They will also provide many people with a solid start to the next stage in their career. But they are not the complete answer to every challenge facing the economy.

“For many adults already in work, an apprenticeship will either be unavailable, nor appropriate for the current stage of their career. The number of chances for them to improve their skills will shrink even further, on top of the million lost opportunities for adults over the past 5 years. This will undoubtedly mean that people with low skills levels are most likely to miss out. People on low pay will fail to get the support they need to progress in work.

“The further cut to the ASB, in the form of £45m taken out of ESOL funding is extremely disappointing, given that it will hit people who are working hard to gain the language skills they need to participate in work and in our society. It seems ironic, that this budget was to support unemployed people, a major priority for this Government.”

Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said:

“A further 3.9% cut to the adult skills budget, on top of the 24% cut announced earlier in the year, will have a devastating impact on the work colleges do in educating and training adults. Without this funding, adult education will be decimated meaning an end to vital courses which provide skilled employees for the workforce.

“The Government said in its Productivity Plan that it wants the UK economy and its workforce to be more productive but more cuts to the further education sector will only hinder this plan; potentially preventing the economy from growing as quickly as it could.

“In addition, cutting the budget for teaching English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) could isolate whole communities leaving many people unable to integrate. This seems particularly at odds with the Prime Minister’s speech today where he spoke of the need to ensure language is not a barrier to integration.

“Not only are these substantial funding cuts but colleges have only had two weeks notice that they will take place. Like universities and schools with sixth forms, colleges have a recruitment cycle for full-time students, which runs for at least six months before courses start.

“Good decision-making about education options and future careers takes time and involves legally binding offers. Last minute decisions by the Government, like this one, put this at risk.”

Commenting on the NAO report, Overseeing financial sustainability in the further education sector, and BIS review paper, Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), said:

“The reductions in budgets funding rates over the last few years has affected all providers in the FE sector. NAO has focussed its paper on the FE Colleges but the financial impact is just as stark on independent providers who deliver a large proportion of the FE provision. It is of some concern that a significant amount of funds have been used to support the FE Colleges in difficulty because these are funds that would otherwise support learners. Clearly there needs to be an effective approach to provision that enables the best providers to deliver which will ensure best value for customers and funding agencies. Both papers recognise the role of the wider sector but it is clear that the main focus is on FE Colleges. Many colleges have complex chains of subcontractors so we will ensure that these local reviews take into account the full range of organisations involved in local delivery.

“The underlying objective of any such reviews must be to maximise the funding that can be focussed on delivery through the most effective provider. Many independent providers have excellent relationships with Colleges and they provide many of the skills that will be needed in this new and customer focussed environment. We agree that it is confusing for all providers when several government departments are responsible for funding provision and now we have the complication of the local partnerships to consider. The reviews must have very clear remits and clear governance. The government partners have to understand the local delivery network and AELP will work with its local provider networks to ensure they can contribute to the review process.”


Related Articles