FE colleges welcome multi million pound government commitment to sector

Coventry College

Coventry College CEO Gill Banks believes the announcement of a new multi-billion-pound investment in Further Education can propel the sector to new heights – but only if it is shared out equally.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently announced a new £1.5 billion package at the spring Budget that will support the refurbishment of college buildings across the country over the next five years.

He has also pledged his commitment to the new £2.5 billion National Skills Fund, which will support the development of adult skills.

Reacting to the news, Gill Banks said: “This investment is fantastic news after decades of under-funding – and if this investment is shared out amongst all of the colleges across the UK, then it will benefit the Further Education sector as a whole.

“Our priority has been on ensuring our infrastructure has remained at a high standard to ensure our learners are reaching their potential.

“Further education is about social mobility and upskilling adults, and the learning environment plays a core part in this alongside the teaching itself, so we are looking forward to exploring how we can take advantage of this funding to ensure the College continues make a difference to thousands of people’s lives every year.

“We are currently recruiting for more lecturers across a variety of subjects to meet demand – so the National Skills Fund couldn’t have come at a better time for us.

“It is encouraging that the new Chancellor has recognised the important role that Further Education plays within the education system and training workforces of the future – and it is this sort of financial support that will enable us as a College to enhance and develop the experiences we can offer our students.”

The CEO of a leading Midlands college group has also welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement to allocate £1.5 billion in additional funding for colleges in England – but says the investment still leaves a significant shortfall against what the sector actually needs.

Angela Joyce Warwickshire College Group

Angela Joyce is CEO of WCG, a large college group based in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, which has seven colleges across the two counties.

She said the funding announcement in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first Budget was a ‘step in the right direction.’

“We welcome the announcement by the Chancellor that there will be additional funding made available over the coming years to improve college estates.

“It is a step in the right direction, recognising that the underfunding of colleges in recent years has had a serious impact on colleges’ ability to continue investing in the development of their facilities for the benefit of learners and businesses.

“We await with interest the detail around this funding to see how it will be made available to colleges and how those most in need of college estate investment will be able to benefit from the fund.

“There is still a long way to go in terms of the government balancing up the funding of colleges when compared to schools and universities.

“This capital investment, whilst welcome, still leaves a significant shortfall against what the sector actually needs if it is to be able to continue to deliver the highest quality of teaching and learning required by our economy, in facilities that are future-proofed.”

As well as the additional £1.5 billion in funding for colleges in England, the government has committed to a new £2.5 billion (£3 billion inclusive of indicative Barnett consequentials) National Skills Fund to improve the technical skills of adults across the country.

Commenting on the National Skills Fund, Angela said: “Adult learning has received declining funding over many years now, so if this skills fund reverses that decline it can only be seen as a positive step.

“Again, the means of allocating that funding to learners and providers will be the key detail that will determine how successfully this fund can meet the needs of individuals, businesses and the economy.

“WCG will aim to play its part in providing input into the discussion around how the fund will be allocated and used.”