Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, has lent his support to a cross party campaign that is calling for increases in Further Education (FE) funding in the upcoming Spending Review.

Giles added his name to a letter, coordinated by Richard Graham MP and Nik Dakin MP, along with colleagues from across Parliament, which called on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to increase FE funding above inflation in 2019-20.

The letter also argued that:

“Constraint on FE resources has had an impact on the teaching, courses and above all opportunities for young people and skills of all ages.

“Currently, the UK ranks poorly in the OECD skills comparison - we are in the bottom quartile for Level 4 & 5 technical skills, including NVQs and HNCs. In addition, England has comparatively poor levels of basic skills – 50% of adults are only at or below the level of numeracy expected of an 11-year-old. If the UK is to compete successfully post-Brexit, in an economy which keeps pace with technological and demographic changes, it is critical that our current and future workforce has the skills employers need.

“We believe FE colleges have a key role to play in this drive for more skills and working with employers to create courses with direct benefits. They also make a significant contribution in promoting the Government’s social mobility agenda.

“Given the government’s focus on closing the nation’s productivity gap and the fact that education/ training is now legally compulsory up to the age of 18, we are concerned that a lack of funding for over 16-year olds in FE risks failing to raise productivity too.

“Meanwhile, a lack of investment in the adult education budget means there are fewer people skilled in professions vital for our economic and social success now and in the future. According to the University and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), over the last ten years, qualifications for health and social care workers fell from 692,000 to 219,000 - a drop of 68%.

“So, ensuring there are enough skilled people in work to deliver the country’s industrial strategy must remain a priority. We share the view of Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, at the launch of the Ofsted annual report in December, who said that the sector will continue to struggle without an increase in the base rate funding for this age group.”

Speaking about the letter, Giles said:

“I signed this letter to make clear my concerns about the direction of travel on FE funding. We have some great FE providers in our local area and they need to be properly funded. FE is potentially transformative for those who make use of it, and I want to protect that.”