During a recent visit to Sutton Community Academy, I spoke to staff in the further education (FE) department about the challenges they are facing, writes Gloria De Piero MP.
FE includes students from 16 to 18 as well as adults receiving training, qualifications, and apprenticeships, all designed to teach new skills, improve employability and help people to play an active role in society.
Unfortunately, despite already being underfunded and lagging behind the funding offered to other sectors, FE is now being asked to find even more budget cuts.
Shockingly, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that without more investment, spending for 16-to 18-year-olds will be the same in real terms in 2020 as it was all the way back in 1990.
The department at Sutton educates 6,500 people locally.
As well as its work with sixth form students, it provides a vital service to adult learners in the community, teaching courses in essential employability skills and skills for independent living.
Many of these learners face mental health issues and social and behavioural problems, so the work the academy does with them takes a huge amount of pressure away from welfare services.
One of these learners Christine, left education at 15 with no qualifications, and wasn’t in employment, education or training until she attended FE courses as an adult.
Having completed Employability Skills courses designed to boost confidence, teach interview skills, and improve literacy, numeracy, and IT, she now works at the academy’s ATTIC cafe.
This story represents what FE does for so many people in our communities, and shows how crucial it is that it’s funded properly and sustainably
Without improvements in the financial situation for FE, thousands of local people may not have access to life-changing education that benefits them and the community.
I hope the Government recognises its importance and puts in the cash to keep FE going.