Responding to the report and recommendations, Chief Executive of AoC, David Hughes said:
“Today’s NAO report provides detailed insight into the complex financial system colleges operate within and the funding changes over the a decade of neglect. It shows that colleges have done a remarkable job to cope with real terms cuts whilst focusing on the quality of the student experience. They should be applauded for that, but it has to change. The government has made clear that it appreciates the vital role colleges play in every community, but to deliver on that, colleges need a stable, long term and fair funding settlement.
That’s why I am pleased to see recommendations for DfE to evaluate the intervention regime and the impact on students and breadth of offer. The cuts have hit colleges hard, but even more importantly, they have resulted in the most disadvantaged students in our society bearing the brunt of austerity. Drops in pastoral support, enrichment opportunities and teaching hours have meant colleges have had to do their best with ever-shrinking resources.
The improvements in college finances in the last few years were positive steps, but the pandemic, lockdown and the aftershocks will mean colleges find themselves in a much more precarious situation now and for the next few years. That comes at the same time as colleges being front and central in the recovery effort. Skills shortages will need to be filled quickly and those made redundant given access to re-training. Young people will need even better education, skills and support to enter a tougher labour market. Colleges can deliver on all of that with the right resources.
With college resilience at an all-time low, the white paper and spending review will be critical in turning that around over the next few years and allowing colleges to play their full role in the country’s recovery. The Government and DfE must make the white paper a real turning point for colleges and create a stronger, more resilient and stable education and skills system that works for everyone.”
You can read the full report below: