Colleges praised for role in funding debate

Marie Rimmer MP
Marie Rimmer MP

Colleges have been praised for their innovation and strong leadership during a debate on further education funding.

St Helens South and Whiston MP Marie Rimmer has also called on the government to ensure their future isn’t put at risk by further cuts.

St Helens College is one of 129 further education colleges that posted an open letter to the chancellor warning that their institutions are already in a “parlous financial state” after suffering cuts of 40 per cent in recent years.

Any new cuts, they say, would tip their colleges “over the precipice”.

The House of Commons Library revealed that the budget for sixth form and further education colleges could fall by at least £1.6 billion under Government plans, meaning four out of ten colleges could close.

During the debate, Marie called upon the government to address the “indefensible VAT anomaly from which sixth-form colleges suffer”.

Academy and school sixth forms, unlike Sixth Form Colleges, have their VAT costs reimbursed by the Government and this inequality, combined with funding cuts, has left many Sixth Form Colleges worried about the future.

Marie said: “In the majority of cases, sixth form colleges are outperforming academy sixth forms and educating more disadvantaged students, yet receiving less funding.

“Sixth-form colleges also offer superior value for money by delivering better outcomes at a lower cost to the public purse.

“Carmel and St Helens College are doing excellent and innovative work but they are rightly concerned about these proposed further cuts that would mean course closures or worse, threaten their very existence.

“This country’s future success depends upon making sure every young person has the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential. At the moment, the Government’s narrow and backward-looking plan for education is simply not up to that task.”