Ian Forsyth via Getty Images
The reason why I’m an MP is because of Further Education. I left school with hardly any qualifications, but I was given a second chance when I took a sign language course at a local college. Then, when I started working as a home-help, I studied for a qualification in care.
This is why I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe Further Education is one of the most undervalued and undermined parts of our education system.
Colleges play a vital role in communities across this country. They provide an education for all those who need it and high quality skills training which is absolutely crucial for our economy.
Unfortunately, though, this doesn’t seem to be understood by Tory ministers. In the past eight years, the sector has seen its funding cut by over £3billion and research shows that by the end of this decade real terms spending per student will drop to the same level as it was in the 1980s.
Unsurprisingly, these funding challenges have put an untenable amount of pressure on colleges and on teachers. The recent education spend report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies claimed that the FE sector has been the biggest “loser” of funding changes.
And this is particularly noticeable when you look at the damage the Tories have caused in adult education.
Adult education is so often misunderstood by those in and outside of Whitehall. For many, it is seen as something you do in your free time; it’s learning a new language before a weekend away, or learning how to paint one evening a week.
While this is a part of it, lifelong learning is also about ensuring that there are enough skilled people in work to deliver the country’s industrial strategy.
It’s about ensuring that the NHS has enough workers, that there are enough people to look after our rapidly ageing population and that we have the builders, plumbers and electricians needed to meet the demands of the housing crisis.
This is why lifelong learning is such an important…