Labour MPs secure Opposition Day debate to call for 16 to 19 budget protection

Labour MPs secure Opposition Day debate to call for 16 to 19 budget protection

Labour has secured an Opposition Day debate to propose that the 16 to 19 education budget be given the same protection as that of schools.

The debate takes place tomorrow and will see Labour MPs argue that government should “protect the education budget in real terms, from the early years through to 19 years old”.

It comes with the Comprehensive Spending Review on November 25, and just a week after Labour new House of Commons Library research showed the budget for FE colleges could fall by at least £1.6bn under Government spending plans — the equivalent of four-in-ten FE colleges.

Labour’s education team arrived at the figures, a party spokesperson said, after working with the House of Commons Library to predict how Department for Education savings of 25 per cent and 40 per cent, as requested by Chancellor George Osborne, might be realised within unprotected budgets.

Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell (pictured above) said Labour had committed to protecting the whole education budget from the early years to 19, because “we value the entire journey of a child through education, including early years and post-16”.

Her party’s motion reads: “This House believes you cannot build a 21st Century economy on falling investment in education; notes that the 16-19 education budget fell by 14 per cent in real terms over the last Parliament, and that many colleges are reporting severe financial difficulties, including no longer offering courses in subjects key for our country’s competitiveness.

“It further notes that over 100 chairs of FE colleges have warned that further cuts to 16-19 funding will tip their colleges over the precipice, and risk the nation’s productivity; believes that, given that the participation age has now risen to 18 years old, it makes no sense for the post-16 education budget to be treated with less importance than the 5-16 schools budget.

“It further believes there should be a joined-up approach to education across departments and calls on this Government to protect the education budget in real terms, from the early years through to 19 years old.”

Ms Powell said: “At a time when we are rightly expecting all young people to stay in education until 18 years old, scaling back resources and opportunities is wrong-headed. With 16 to 19 education at the sharp end the government is curbing opportunities for young people.”

A source close to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan dismissed Labour’s figures as “back of the fag packet nonsense” and “scare-mongering”.

A government spokesperson said: “We have protected the schools budget and ended the unfair difference between post-16 schools and colleges by funding them per student, rather than discriminating between qualifications.

“We have provided sufficient funds for every full-time student to do a full timetable of courses regardless of institution.”

He added that the base rate of funding for 16 to 19-year-olds in the academic year 2015/16 would continue at the same level as in the academic year 2014/15: £4,000 for full-time 16 and 17-year-olds and £3,300 for full-time 18-year-olds.