English FE ‘expert’ needs to looks in own backyard

Yesterday’s Herald piece on Scotland’s supposed lack of cohesion in education prompts this from: stewartb

A recent report from the House of Commons Library (HoCL) provides an in-depth analysis of the funding of further education colleges in England and the financial fragility of this sector after .c 12 years of Tory rule in Westminster.

Source: House of Commons Library (19 May 2022) Further education funding in England.

Here are just a few highlights to give a flavour of the findings: ‘The Institute for Fiscal Studies latest Annual report on education spending in England found that spending on classroom-based adult education in 2019-20 was NEARLY TWO-THIRDS LOWER IN REAL TERMS THAN IN 2003–04 AND ABOUT 50% LOWER THAN IN 2009–10. It stood at £4.4 billion in 2003-04 (2021-22 prices) and fell to £2.9 billion in 2010-11 and to just under £1.5 billion in 2019-20.’ (My emphasis)

Also from the IFS, it adds: ‘Spending on apprenticeships increased by 50% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2019-20 to a total of £2.0 billion (2021-22 prices). HOWEVER, TOTAL SPENDING ON CLASSROOM-BASED ADULT EDUCATION, APPRENTICESHIPS AND WORK-BASED LEARNING STILL FELL BY 35% IN REAL TERMS BETWEEN 2009-10 AND 2019-20.’

‘Spending on adult education and apprenticeships will rise by 30% between 2019– 20 and 2024–25. However, AS WITH SPENDING ON 16–18 EDUCATION, THIS ONLY REVERSES A FRACTION OF PAST CUTS; combined spending on adult education and apprenticeships will still be 15% below 2009–10 levels. Spending on adult education on its own (i.e. excluding growing levels of spending on apprenticeships) fell by 49% 2009–10 and 2019–20, and WILL STILL BE 33% BELOW 2009–10 LEVELS EVEN WITH THE ADDITIONAL FUNDING ANNOUNCED IN THE 2021 SPENDING REVIEW.

‘In May 2019, the independent panel report to the Government’s Review of Post-18 Education and Funding published its findings:

‘… total spending on adult skills has FALLEN BY APPROXIMATELY 45 PER CENT IN REAL TERMS BETWEEN 2009/10 AND 2017/18. This is one of the most important statistics in this entire report and CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED IN TERMS OF EITHER ECONOMICS OR SOCIAL EQUITY.’

And secondly, for context. As we know funding for FE like education more widely is devolved. An ask of the Scottish Government (SG) to increase funding for colleges may be reasonable but it cannot be treated in isolation. If it was ONLY THIS ONE ‘ASK’ then yes, the SG has the ability to tweak its budget, including its allocation of funding that comes from Westminster.

As we know IT’S NOT JUST ONE ASK. There’s opposition parties and others’ demanding increased funding for the NHS, for social care, for local authorities, for education at all levels, for university research support, for roads upgrading, for more ferries, for public sector wages and on and on and on!

Now each and every one of these demands of a government may under ‘normal’ circumstances be justified and capable of resolution. And the SG would no doubt wish to increase spend on many of these areas too! However, there is a HUGE BUT to insert here!

But ‘normal’ is where the government under pressure has the full set of fiscal and monetary powers, borrowing powers and full agency over all spending decisions (i.e. no spending by a third party on behalf of ..) enjoyed by a ‘normal’ independent nation state.

This is NOT the situation the Scottish Government is in: its serious financial bind can clearly be shown to be exacerbated by dependence on a government in Westminster that for much of the past c.12 years has pursued a policy of austerity – of cuts (or at best severe constraints) in real terms for public services. And moreover, we in Scotland are dependent on a Westminster government whose actions have negative effects that need to be mitigated.

The tweaking of a largely fixed SG budget can respond positively to the demands of one or few narrow sectoral interests for increased funding. However, the limited powers available to the Scottish Government are wholly inadequate to respond to across the board financial pressures. The status quo is no longer tenable!


5 thoughts on “English FE ‘expert’ needs to looks in own backyard

  1. What do facts matter, when you want to be sneeringly contemptuous? Showing contempt for Scotland, it’s institutions and its people is the point. It is xenophobia as a tool of demoralisation.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well said Stewart. Is it also not the case that the Scottish ‘budget’ is being reduced yet again by the English government. It’s a bizarre set up, for (hugely resource rich) Scotland to have their revenues removed by the English government, and for the English government to decide how much of Scotland’s own money is returned while they keep their cut. It’s more akin to a racket than anything else.
    England is dependent on Scotland, not the other way around.
    I suspect that the English government are slightly curbing their plans to reduce the powers of the Scottish parliament via their ‘internal market act’ until such a time as they can somehow, by hook or by crook, reduce support for the SNP and the Scottish Greens.

    The people of Scotland clearly do not want to be ruled by nor have their resources removed by the country next door. The Scottish government has a mandate to hold an independence referendum, the people voted for it. Devolution has had its day, it is incredibly constraining as your article points out, and more ridiculous, those constraints at the hands of the English government, are used to attempt to portray the democratically elected government of Scotland, the SNP, as somehow imposing austerity onto Scotland when nothing could be further from the truth. The whole devolution system, from the various voting systems imposed by the English government, to having broadcasting and telecommunications controlled by the English government, along with so many other fiscal and structural powers denied to Scotland, is utterly rigged by the English government. They must laugh their heads off at Scotland every day they wake up, at how they have Scotland by the short and curlies, scuse the expression. However they are fearful, because there is a majority of support for independence and so they have to stem their assault on the powers that Scotland does have, much of which means having to mitigate, from a fixed budget, the cruel and barbaric austerity assault on the poorest, imposed by the English government.

    English rule for the foreseeable, with all that it entails, and it’s not looking positive in any way shape or form, or Scotland makes a decision, to get out of the UK before it’s too late to save the very existence of your country.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Very true, with the alternative option of following a negative UK story by trawling for dirt here, just about anything will be used and hyped to the nines

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree that “An ask of the Scottish Government (SG) to increase funding for colleges may be reasonable but it cannot be treated in isolation. If it was ONLY THIS ONE ‘ASK’ then yes, the SG has the ability to tweak its budget, including its allocation of funding that comes from Westminster.
    As we know IT’S NOT JUST ONE ASK”.

    I work in the college sector and can confirm that before 2017 SVQ candidates applied for SAAS and fees were topped up by employer or individual contributions. Now 99.9% candidates are modern apprentices with most of the funding coming from the Scottish Govt via Skills Development Scotland. With the college needing to cut 1 million from its spending, assessors here are being asked to either take on double the candidates with reduced support hrs or earn half what we take home today

    Most reasonable folk could accept this better if trimming budgets started at the top – executive salaries & perks, tax loopholes, wealth taxes on second homes & land might let some wealth be redistributed. But fundamentally only when Scotland is independent will we be able to decide our own funding priorities and this needs to be spelt out loud and clear as many folk don’t seem to know or care that Westminster can decide how much of our money is spent. I’ll bet Queen Elizabeth House in Edinburgh will be one of the few departments spared a civil service cull and it will be Scotland who has to pay the bill. I wonder what our contribution to this jubilee will come to?

    Hopping mad as ever!

    Liked by 2 people

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