As the race to succeed Theresa May hots up, David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges has written to each of the leadership candidates. Below is a copy of the letter.
Dear Leadership Candidate,
As a prospective leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister you will know that there is wide public interest in how you would support businesses to thrive, and at the same time how you would champion those who often feel overlooked and left behind.
Colleges exist in every community in all four nations and are well-placed to help you tackle these tough challenges from your very first day in Number 10. The vital roles colleges play is now recognised by the full range of organisations – from the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce to the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Social Mobility Commission – who want to see more investment in colleges and will look to your leadership to deliver that. There are three simple ways in which you can do this.
First of all, the government’s post 18 education and funding review, published only last week, made practical recommendations which would support the life chances of the 50% of 18 to 30-year-olds who do not go to university. Some of the recommendations require funding commitments and legislative change, but others can be acted upon quickly and decisively. With your support, the Education Secretary could quickly start to rebalance our education and skills system so that it works for everyone.
Second, there is a pressing need to address the underfunding of 16-to-18 education. At a crucial stage in life, the state invests less than all of our competitor nations. This has profound consequences for how ready and able young people are to flourish in a rapidly changing world and labour market. HM Chief Inspector describes this as the biggest threat to the quality of education. With your support, the Chancellor of the Exchequer could address this issue in the next spending review or Budget.
Finally, the network of colleges needs to be strengthened so that every community has a thriving institution as part of what the Education Secretary described as a vital part of the national skills infrastructure. Your support could see that translated into a new strategic relationship with government and a capital injection to renew, refresh and upgrade facilities in line with technological advances and the needs of businesses.
I would like to invite you to pledge your support on these three issues as part of your campaign for the leadership. I very much look forward to hearing your views and the approach that you would take as Prime Minister.