Better funding for education of 16-18 year-olds and an urgent review of the Apprenticeship Levy should feature in the Chancellor’s upcoming Budget, the principal of Middlesbrough College has said.
Zoe Lewis, also chief executive of Middlesbrough College, is one of 140 college principals from across the UK to sign a recent letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May.
It called on the Government to boost spending on 16-18 education to rebalance a system that Zoe and other principals argue is disadvantaging A Level and vocational students.
Ahead of next week’s budget, Zoe explained: “The national funding rate for 16 and 17-year-olds has been fixed since 2013 at £4,000 per full-time student, and this reduces even further once the student turns 18 to £3,300.
“This compares to around £6,000 per student in schools and more than £9,000 for students in university.
“Because the rate has been fixed, colleges have had to absorb many extra costs, meaning it’s getting tougher each year to provide a comprehensive curriculum of the kind that equips students with the skills and knowledge they need to take into the workplace.”
She called on the Chancellor to make at least £200 more funding per pupil available to redress the shortfalls.
The letter also pointed out the current funding typically only allows for 16 hours per week of education and training for students aged 16-17 – only half the tuition provided in other leading economies.
In addition, Zoe asked the Government to begin an urgent review of the apprenticeship reforms, which have caused a significant fall in apprenticeship starts since their introduction earlier this year.
Nationally, new figures in October showed a 61% fall in the fourth quarter of the year compared to the previous year.
Zoe explained: “The Apprenticeship Levy requires all businesses with a wage bill in excess of £3m to pay 0.5% of that bill towards funding apprenticeships.
“It also asks medium-sized companies to contribute to the cost of training and it is these companies that have reduced their take up of apprentices so far this year.
“There are some great opportunities for employers to benefit from the Levy, but we believe a review of the 10% employer contribution is necessary to make sure it is more accessible.”