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We have responded to a key new report from the London-based think tank, The Centre For London.

The report, issued today, finds that London is entering the recession brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic with a weakened Further Education system.

  • It is underfunded – spending on adult education, apprenticeships and other work-based learning for over 18s has fallen by 37 per cent since 2009/10
  • There are not enough learners – the proportion of working age Londoners in further education has fallen by 40 per cent since 2014
  • There are not enough new apprentices – London has half as many apprenticeship starts as the rest of the UK
  • It has not responded to employers’ needs – the number of learners and apprentices in areas with persistent skills shortages has not increased in line with employer demand

The report found that, without investment and strategic long-term thinking, the Further Education sector will not be able to support London’s recovery. It makes a number of recommendations to the government:

  • Introduce a support package for the further education sector, bringing funding closer to the higher education offer. This should include boosting teaching grants for subjects relevant to skills shortages
  • Make learning more affordable by offering free tuition for students studying for their first Level 2 or Level 3 qualification and a lifelong learning allowance for higher-level courses, available for adults without a publicly funded degree
  • Devolve the further education budget in full to London government, including funding for apprenticeships and 16-18 learning, to enable strategic oversight of the city’s skills provision and allow City Hall to set priorities that match London’s economic needs

You can read and download the whole 24-page report here.

As London’s largest Further Education college group, with over 28,500 students we know the immense role that FE colleges play in transforming the life chances of students. We feel strongly about this issue and so we have responded to the report. Our Group Chief Executive, Roy O’Shaughnessy, said:

“This report illustrates the effects of well over a decade of neglect and cuts on Further Education, painting a picture of underfunding, falling student and apprentice numbers and a complex thicket of funding rules which blunts both effectiveness and innovation.

“There is so much energy and passion in our sector – I see it every day in the actions of our leaders and teaching staff – and we will need this to dig ourselves out of our current situation.  For example, we in the Capital City College Group are looking at our own resources – our buildings, our course offer and our relationships with local and regional employers – to help secure our longer-term financial future and to ensure that our courses equip Londoners with the skills they need for the jobs they will do in the future.

“With the Government focusing its attention and spending on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot assume all of our funding requirements will be met. It is right that we call for more funding and less complexity, but we must also lead by example and show that we are worthy of additional investment. We owe it to the people of London.”