From education to employment

Learning in the Cold: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Post-16 Education and Skills

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New Campaign for Learning paper is a comprehensive examination of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on all aspects of post-16 education

Campaign for Learning publishes today (Thursday 20th October) Learning in the Cold: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Post-16 Education and Skills.  

With the nation in the grip of a severe and uncertain cost-of-living crisis, Learning in the Cold sets out the impacts on learners, prospective learners, providers and employers in the post-16 education system.  

For the first time, perspectives from across the post-16 education and skills sector are brought together in one paper, providing a comprehensive view on the scale of the challenges and, through recommendations, what needs to be done to sustain participation in learning and training.

Learning in the Cold includes seventeen contributions and recommendations from representative bodies, think tanks, and skills and labour market consultants. Together, they examine the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on: 

  • Post-16 learners in all forms of education and training;
  • Post-16 year-olds who are employed, unemployed or economically inactive but not in full-time education and are claiming welfare benefits;
  • Employers and their own investment in training, demand for apprenticeships and engagement in publicly-funded post-16 education and skills more widely, and
  • Post-16 education and training providers as trading organisations, as employers of the education and training workforce, as owners of assets which could be used as warm spaces, and the deliverers of education and training opportunities during the winter and beyond.

The paper concludes with recommendations from Campaign for Learning.

Julia Wright, National Director at Campaign for Learning, said:

“Post-16 students, employers and post-16 providers are in the middle of the ever-worsening cost-of-living crisis. The contributors in our pamphlet shine a light on the different impacts of the cost-of-living crisis on different areas of post-16 education, skills and employment.

“Without action in the Medium-Term Fiscal Plan on Monday 31st October participation and achievement in post-16 education and training could fall as the country faces a cost-of-living crisis fueled by elevated energy costs, rising food and petrol prices, and higher interest rates.

“By bringing together these different perspectives and recommendations, we hope the Government will be better placed to formulate a comprehensive policy response to sustain participation in learning in the weeks and months ahead.”

Selected Quotes from Learning in the Cold  

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association on the cost-of-living crisis:

“Many colleges have seen a significant increase in the number of students applying for the 16-19 bursary fund… there has been a greater demand for free meals alongside reduced footfall in college canteens. More students are reporting that they cannot afford to go on educational visits or university open days.” 

“The cost-of-living crisis is disproportionately affecting disadvantaged students, while simultaneously creating more disadvantaged students. The Government’s response must be targeted and immediate.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute on the cost-of-living crisis:

“… to students already enrolled in higher education, debates about fees are largely irrelevant…It is the amount of money you have access to right now that determines if you can afford your rent, travel costs and food. The level of your bank account can determine whether you feel like you belong at your institution and are getting the most out of your course, or whether you are at risk of dropping out.”

“Sadly, to date the Westminster Government has largely ignored students when it comes to tackling the cost-of-living crisis, with – for example – English maintenance loans going up by just over 2% while inflation surges past 10%.”

Susan Pember, Policy Director at HOLEX on the cost-of-living crisis: 

“This year, the adult education sector has worked hard to give confidence to those who still felt vulnerable from the pandemic and has quietly been building back participation        numbers.

“Today, however, there is now another issue for learners and prospective learners to manage: how can adults, households and families prioritise learning – even if course costs are fully funded or there are no up-front fees – when they are caught in a cost-of-living crisis?”

Liz­­ Marr, pro-vice chancellor – students at The Open University, on the cost-of-living crisis:

“All students are struggling with the cost of living, but pressures will be particularly felt by part-time students. They tend to be older – seven out of ten (70%) are aged 25 and over –and as a result are more likely to have significant financial and caring responsibilities. At The OU, 39% of students have dependent children.

“Part-time students in England are also unlikely to be eligible for government support with their living costs – the vast majority (90%) are excluded from maintenance support, and part-time students are also unable to access support offered to students who are parents via the Parents’ Learning Allowance and the Childcare Grant.”

Chris Hale, policy director at Universities UK, on the cost-of-living crisis:

“There is more that the Government can and must do. Universities UK has called for targeted government hardship funding for UK students. We also want to see the reinstatement of maintenance grants for those most in need, and action to ensure that support currently available for students is protected against inflation and adequately allows students to cover living costs. Maintenance loans have not increased by inflation for several years and annual living support for students is falling below the equivalent of the minimum living wage.”

 David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges on the cost-of-living crisis: 

“There are no easy ways through this for college leaders and their boards. Every decision they need to take to stay solvent, which they are required to do, will create more pain somewhere. But it is critical that FE colleges stay financially healthy. Nobody predicted the level of increase when colleges were setting their budgets in July, so colleges have to find extra funds in-year to cope with inflation and energy costs. That’s why many are thinking the almost unthinkable – from lowering the thermostat to 19 degrees to closing buildings, reducing opening hours, and even supplying blankets for classrooms.” 

Jane Hickie, chief executive of AELP, on the cost-of-living crisis:

“Training providers, like other businesses, are dealing with inflation rates not seen for a generation. Being able to cope with those rising costs is a major concern for ITPs and this is compounded by problems in recruiting and retaining staff. Support will be needed to ensure providers can weather the storm and continue to provide a wide range of high-quality skills provision.”

Campaign for Learning on policy actions needed

Mark Corney, senior policy adviser, Campaign for Learning commented:

“Policy makers should expect participation to fall in all forms of post-16 learning because learners have squeezed incomes to live and learn, and employers will need to put energy and wage bills before training.

“To help sustain participation in learning, the policy response should emphasise taxpayer support for living costs.  

“For 16–19-year-olds, the government should maintain, increase, and extend 16-19 child benefit, 16-19 child allowances within Universal Credit and 16-19 bursary grants.

“For students in full-time and part-time higher and further education, the government should increase and extend maintenance loans, adult bursary grants and Universal Credit paid to out-of-work and in-work claimants.

“In terms of funding of provision, 16-19 funding should be increased to deliver better and more free meals to students in schools and colleges this winter, and up-front cash contributions should no longer be required for courses funded through the Adult Education Budget and employers supporting apprenticeships.”

To read the full paper and all the recommendations, press here.

Order of series

Day 1

Friday 21st October

  1. Louise Murphy, Economist, Resolution Foundation: The Cost-of-Living and the Energy Crisis for Households 
  2. James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive, Sixth Form Colleges Association: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and 16-19 Year-Olds in Full-Time Further Education 

Day 2

Saturday 22nd October

  1. Becci Newton, Public Policy Research Director, Institute for Employment Studies: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and 16-18 Year-Olds in Jobs with Apprenticeships 
  2. Zach Wilson, Senior Analysis Officer and Andrea Barry, Analysis Manager, Youth Futures Foundation: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and 16-24 Year-Olds ‘Not in Full-Time Education’ 

Day 3

Monday 24th October

  1. Nick Hillman, Director, Higher Education Policy Institute: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Full-Time and Postgraduate Higher Education 
  2. Liz Marr, Pro-Vice Chancellor – Students, The Open University: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Part-Time Higher Education in England 

Day 4

Tuesday 25th October

  1. Steve Hewitt, Further Education Consultant: The Cost-of-Living Crisis: Access to HE and Foundation Year Programmes 
  2. Sophia Warren, Senior Policy Analyst, Policy in Practice: The Cost-of-Living Crisis, Universal Credit, Jobs and Skills Training 

Day 5

Wednesday 26th October

  1. Paul Bivand, Independent Labour Market Analyst: Economic Inactivity by the Over 50s, the Cost-of-Living Crisis and Adult Training 
  2. Aidan Relf, Skills Consultant: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Employer Demand for Level 2-7 Apprenticeships 

Day 6

Thursday 27th October

  1. Mandy Crawford-Lee, Chief Executive, UVAC: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Employer Demand for Level 4+ Apprenticeships and Part-Time Technical Education 
  2. Simon Parkinson, Chief Executive, WEA: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Adult Community Learning 

Day 7

Friday 28th October

  1. David Hughes, Chief Executive, AoC: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and FE Colleges 
  2. Jane Hickie, Chief Executive, AELP: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Independent Training Providers 

Day 8

Saturday 29th October

  1. Susan Pember, Policy Director, HOLEX: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Adult Education Providers 
  2. Martin Jones, Vice-Chancellor and David Etherington, Professor of Local and Regional Economic Development, Staffordshire University: The Cost-of-Living Crisis – The Response of Staffordshire University 
  3. Chris Hale, Policy Director, Universities UK: The Cost-of-Living Crisis and Universities 

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