AoC funding plea rejected by letter ending with minister scribbling a promise to continue ‘lobbying’

The skills minister offered a handwritten promise to the Association of Colleges that her “lobbying for FE continues” when delivering the news that there is no cash to fund a college staff pay rise.

Anne Milton, who says she “constantly” fights the Treasury for more money, appeared sympathetic to the AoC’s case when responding to its boss’ plea to match the recent school teacher award of a 3.5 per cent salary increase.

In her reply to David Hughes’ request, she explained that the Department for Education does not set the pay for teachers in colleges, but does set the levels of funding for FE.

“We want to make sure that there is an effective funding system for FE which can support sustainable, high quality education,” she said.

“We are considering this as part of the upcoming spending review, scheduled to take place in 2019.”

Ms Milton then added a handwritten note at the bottom of the letter which reads: “My lobbying for FE continues!”

The DfE has since got in touch with FE Week to reaffirm their commitment to the sector, whilst repeating that they are reviewing FE funding.

“Further education is a very important part of the education sector offering invaluable opportunities to people of all ages,” a spokesperson said.

“We have transformed technical education to put it on a par with the best systems in the world, with our new T-levels to be backed by an extra £500 million a year.

“In addition we have protected the base rate of funding for 16-19 year olds and maintained the level of the adult education budget since 2015-16.”

She added: “This is why the minister made clear that whilst it is for individual colleges to set pay for their staff we are currently looking at funding for the sector, including the need to recruit and retain effective teachers.”

In March the skills minister revealed that the DfE had started an FE funding and “sustainability” review, which looks into how the current system meets the costs of high-quality provision.

But earlier this month it was reported that the sector could in fact be in for another round of cuts, after the chancellor told ministries without protected budgets to find savings.

Ms Milton told the education select committee in July that she “constantly” fights the Treasury for more funding, but before she can request an amount her sustainability review needs to be completed.

With the spending review fast approaching and scheduled to take place in early 2019 the minister will need to get a move on to persuade the Chancellor to give more, not less, cash.

You can read Ms Milton’s full letter to Mr Hughes here.

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