The education of young people is important not only to individuals, but to this country as a whole. To be a prosperous UK, particularly in a post-Brexit world, we need to make sure that our future workforce are provided with the skills and knowledge needed for their future careers. To do this effectively, we must ensure that our colleges and schools are provided with the right resources.
According to figures from the Sixth Form Colleges Association, the average education funding per 11-16 student is £5,751. This drops to an average of £4,531 for 16-18 education. The rates paid by the Department for Education have been fixed in cash terms since 2013 despite inflationary pressures each year.
There is a growing gap between the funding made available to educate this age group and the actual cost of delivering a high quality curriculum. This has had a significant impact on students as the current funding levels mean that most young people only receive around 15 hours of teaching and support per week. This is considerably less than in other high performing education systems in other countries.
If no action is taken, this will have a detrimental impact on the commitment to improving the skills of the UK population. Earlier this year, the Chancellor announced plans in the Budget to invest £500 million as part of the proposed T Levels outlined in the Post-16 Skills Plan and Lord Sainsbury’s Review. This increase in funding for students aged 16-19 studying technical courses will equate to around 25 hours per week but is only likely to cover around 25% of those in education. Higher study hours should be an aspiration for everyone. The Government was right to identify that students studying technical courses require additional support to succeed, but the same is true of young people studying A Levels and applied general qualifications – particularly disadvantaged students.
It’s because of this that I’m pleased to be holding a debate in Westminster Hall this afternoon on the issue. For too long, young people have been shortchanged when it comes to education. A high-quality curriculum needs proper investment. The importance of teaching hours and student contact time should not be underestimated. The Government has a duty to ensure that young people have access to the learning hours needed to give them every opportunity to succeed.