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Further education bodies in united call for autumn statement investment

18 November 2016

More investment in further education and the teaching workforce is needed to meet the prime minister's ambition for social mobility, organisations across the sector have urged the government ahead of next week's autumn statement.

In a joint letter to the chancellor of the exchequer, bodies representing further education staff, students and providers have called for extra investment to 'develop a strong and vibrant further education sector which can cater to different people's needs and aspirations'.

The letter is co-signed by the University and College Union, the Association of Colleges, the National Union of Students, the Learning and Work Institute, Unison, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Voice, GMB and Unionlearn.

It notes that over a million adult learners, 15,000 teachers and similar numbers of support staff have been lost from further education since 2009, and calls on government to 'take a strategic approach to strengthening local further education' by replacing this lost capacity to open up more learning opportunities.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: 'The prime minister has set out a clear ambition for improving social mobility, and further education has a crucial role to play in supporting this aim. However, more resource is required to ensure that everyone, regardless of age or background, can access the learning they need.

'We are jointly calling on the chancellor to make a strategic investment in rebuilding the capacity of further education providers, funding extra teaching and support staff so that more learners are able reach their potential.'

The letter in full:

Dear Chancellor,

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister set out an intention to make Britain a country that helps everyone reach their potential, regardless of background.

Equipping people with the skills they need to thrive must lie at the heart of these efforts, especially as the UK deals with whatever economic changes Brexit will bring. If everyone is to access the learning they require, the government must develop a strong and vibrant further education sector which can cater to different people's needs and aspirations.

We know that further education transforms lives and that colleges make an invaluable contribution to their local communities, but too many people are missing out on the learning they need. Cuts to public funding have seen courses closed, as well as the loss of over a million adult learners, 15,000 experienced teachers and similar numbers of support staff from the further education sector since 2009. 

If we are to build our nation's skills, we must work to replace this lost capacity and give more learners the opportunity to fulfil their potential. The government needs to take a strategic approach to strengthening local further education, and work to attract talented teachers and support staff to work in our colleges and adult learning providers.

There's a hard economic case for expanding further education - every £1 of government investment in further education and skills returns around £20 to the economy. So if this month's Autumn Statement is to match the Prime Minister's ambition for social mobility and a strong economy, it could include few better investments than further education.

That's why we, on behalf of further education staff, students and providers, are asking you to rebuild capacity in adult education and skills by opening up more local learning opportunities, funding extra teachers and support staff, and putting investment in the transformative opportunities provided by further education at the heart of your approach.

Yours sincerely,

Sally Hunt, General Secretary, University and College Union

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

Malia Bouattia, President, National Union of Students

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute

Dave Prentis, General Secretary, Unison

Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Deborah Lawson, General Secretary, Voice

Sharon Holder, National Official, GMB

Liz Rees, Director, Unionlearn