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!