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AoC responds to the Autumn statement

22 November 2023

Jeremy Hunt Parliament

David Hughes, chief executive, Association of Colleges, said:

“The Autumn statement today included little for further education, despite the Chancellor claiming it was a plan for growth. The forecasts of very low economic growth for the next couple of years should have been a signal for the need to invest more through colleges in meeting the skills needs and filling the skills gaps that are holding employers back.

"The Chancellor’s plans assume that public revenue spending will increase by just 1% a year in real-terms for the next few years. That looks worrying for college funding given the commitments to increase NHS, childcare and defence spending because it implies spending rising by less than real-terms – in other words cuts - in other budgets. That will mean pressure on DfE to cut funding in further education, a sector which has lived through a decade of funding neglect, and one which needs significantly more funding to tackle the pressing issues of teacher recruitment and retention, predicted student growth and qualification reforms. Colleges could play a much bigger role in growing the economy, particularly in the focus areas the Chancellor has identified today, but with funding squeezed further, they will struggle to realise that potential.

“It is interesting that the Chancellor felt the need to announce a modest increase of £50m to increase the number of apprenticeships in engineering and other growth sectors. That goes alongside the welcome increase in the minimum apprenticeship wage announced yesterday. But both of these fall far short of what is needed to maximise the impact of apprenticeships and of the investment needed to boost economic growth through skills.

“I would like to see much more ambitious investment in skills for adults and young people as well as changes to the apprenticeship levy which we set out in our Opportunity England paper, for instance spending at least half of the levy on apprenticeships for younger, new job starters and entry level jobs, and requiring more transparency from employers on how they use the levy."