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Government funding condition for English and maths 'unworkable', says AoC

16th February 2024

Gillian Keegan portrait

Education secretary Gillian Keegan must suspend the new conditions of funding on English and maths in further education colleges, the Association of Colleges has said.

In October 2023, Rishi Sunak announced £150m in funding for colleges as a ‘downpayment’ for the ABS and to support on English and maths teaching. On Wednesday, four months later, the Department for Education (DfE) said the funding came with the condition that colleges must deliver 100 hours of English and 140 hours of maths per student from 2025/26.

In a letter to Ms Keegan, AoC chief executive David Hughes says the new policy came “without prior public consultation, engagement or clear evidence, is unfair to a large group of young people and, in the opinion of every college leader I have spoken to, is simply unworkable.”

AoC estimates that the announcement will require 800 extra maths teachers, and 400 extra English teachers, at a time when colleges already have lots of vacancies in English and maths. Currently, on the AoC jobs site, there are over 1000 vacancies listed in these two subjects.

In the letter, Mr Hughes lists three major problems with the announcement: the risk of it leading to more students becoming NEET, the pressure it places on teacher recruitment and the lack of trust it shows in colleges.

He says: “It is unfair because for this group of students, who arguably need the most teaching time, the minimum teaching hours for English and maths will eat into the time available for their main subject, potentially leaving some students doing seven hours a week on English and maths and less than 10 on everything else ... It will be demotivating and demoralising for many students and could lead to more dropping out of learning altogether.”

AoC has repeatedly urged the government to close the £9,000 pay gap between school teachers and FE lecturers. In his letter, Mr Hughes says that “without improved pay it might never be possible” to deliver the number of hours the government are stipulating.

He also criticises the government for showing “a lack of trust in the judgement and willingness of college leaders to tackle big issues in 16-18 education in a collaborative way with the Department”.

The full letter can be read here.