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New Chancellor urged to use colleges to level up towns and communities

The newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak

The newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, @RishiSunak must use the long-awaited budget to make colleges the catalyst for change in the country’s #LeftBehind towns. Today, as the cabinet #reshuffle announced a new Chancellor, the Association of Colleges is demanding a fresh approach to education to reach forgotten communities and people.

Only real action on technical education and skills will offer people equal chances and ensure the economy works for all communities across the country. Colleges hold the key to answering some of the most pressing questions and challenges. In many of the government’s newly won constituencies colleges are the biggest employers after the NHS and public services. Mr Sunak must use the 11 March statement to reconfirm colleges as vital institutions in an education system that requires ‘levelling up’ just as much as the country it serves.

As a start, the budget must see the funding of the extension of the pupil premium for all 16 to 18-year-olds, ensure the apprenticeship system is benefiting those who need it most and target the Shared Prosperity Fund and National Skills Fund strategically.

To continue to support the 2.2 million people a year in colleges and 116,000 staff, a clear ten-year plan for post-16 education must follow next month’s budget. A long term funding plan is the only way to support every young person achieve their full potential, uplift forgotten towns and ensure colleges are thriving hubs of local communities.

To revive left-behind towns and communities through education:

  • HM Treasury should fund the extension of the pupil premium to support 16-to-18-year-olds from September 2020.
  • HM Treasury should outline the 2021-2 budgets and remits for the National Skills Fund and college capital programme.
  • The new Shared Prosperity Fund should be targeted at left behind areas where economic activity is lower, and unemployment is higher.
  • HM Treasury should support the Department for Education with its further education reform plans so that the Post 18 review recommendations can be implemented.
  • DfE should develop a plan for the National Skills Fund which focuses on higher technical education in colleges to ensure that they are used in all parts of the country and for economically valuable skills.

Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes said:

“Colleges already do so much but they could do so much more with the right investment. The upcoming budget gives the new Chancellor an early and great opportunity to develop a world class technical and vocational education system that allows us to continue to compete on a global scale. Colleges are ready to support the skills needs of major infrastructure projects such as HS2, the quest for carbon net zero, the NHS and care services and many other sector needs, but can only do that with the right investment.

“After a decade of neglect, the new Chancellor now has the chance to maximise the opportunities for everyone to achieve their potential and ensure no one is left behind. Proper investment in technical education and the skills system will help boost productivity, support young people and adults to get on in work and life and help employers to get the skilled people they need. To achieve that, this budget must deliver on our recommendations and invest in colleges.”

AoC returned a detailed budget submission to HM Treasury on 7 February 2020.

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