FE News Features Julie’s comments on Autumn Budget
Dr Julie Mills responds to the Chancellor's Autumn Budget 2017
"There were a number of announcements to welcome in the Chancellor’s speech this afternoon. I noticed several uses of the word “training” alongside the five “skills,” – a record for the latter in recent budgets by my reckoning.
"It’s unclear whether the £20 million which is to be available to help colleges progress to the new T Levels is all completely new money but it’s good to see that government is taking seriously the importance of making sure that the new standards are properly designed and fit for purpose when they’re introduced. It’s a major overhaul of the system and will require careful and thoughtful handling.
"The extra investment in maths is to be very warmly welcomed. Specific mention was made of A Levels and Core Maths but there may be other areas where it could be used. For example, our engineering students might benefit from being funded for an element of higher level maths as part of their courses, greatly increasing the value of their BTec or City & Guilds qualifications for potential employers.
"The Chancellor talked about funding an extra 8000 Computer Science teachers. One wonders if that is exclusive to schools or if it includes a portion for FE. Digital learning is something we already provide very effectively as a sector and it would seem a prudent place to put the cash.
"He also talked about funding for construction training as part of his housing push. There is no doubt this will be entirely positive. At Milton Keynes we have seen a dramatic increase in demand for construction courses and our Construction Centre is groaning at the seams.
"On the mentions front, it was good to hear FE getting a “shout out” from the Dispatch Box – not a frequent occurrence with many Chancellors past. In her recent speech to the Association of Colleges Conference, the minister Anne Milton said it was essential that government understood how the sector was, “Ensuring that we have an adaptable workforce with the skills and opportunities to thrive. Supporting the growth of innovative, productive business, and making the most of local strengths in communities right across the UK.” It’s good to hear that our new minister seems intent on banging the drum for the sector after such a long time feeling like the poor relation in education.
"However the central problems remain; the inexplicable differential between funding for teaching and support of GCSE students at £4,800 each as opposed to those a year older at £4,000 is still unaddressed. The AoC’s request for an extra £200 per student would have provided a financial boost of £1.1 million to this College’s allocation – a sum of money with which we could do important and worthwhile things."