The North East England Chamber of Commerce and five regional Further Education colleges have urged Government to urgently revoke their adult education funding clawback for missed delivery targets for 2021/2021. The Chamber believes the clawback threatens to cause a reduction in capacity for adult education provision at a time when investment in lifelong learning has never been more important.
Chamber Chief Executive, James Ramsbotham said: “This year has been tremendously challenging for Further Education colleges across our region. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, colleges in the North East have faced considerable disruption to their everyday operations throughout this academic year, including the implementation of local restrictions in the Autumn and the recent national lockdown. As a result, colleges have lost a term of face to face programme delivery…[and] many colleges across the North East have fallen short of their adult education delivery targets for this academic year.”
“The proposed clawback of adult education funding threatens to undermine the progress made by colleges on financial stability. Colleges have worked extremely hard to become more financially stable and to support their communities throughout the pandemic. The revocation of this funding could threaten this progress and destabilise colleges up and down the country.”
The letter states that the current plans contradict the Government’s stated commitment to prioritise Further Education and place it at the heart of the country’s recovery from Covid-19. The clawback will likely cause colleges to reduce their capacity for adult skills delivery at a time when upskilling and retraining provision has never been more important.
James Ramsbotham said: “The North East’s unemployment rate is currently 6.2% which is likely to bring unprecedented demand for retraining and career change as individuals seek work, the impact on cashflow of the clawback may significantly reduce Further Education’s ability to service that demand. Adult education is integral to supporting people back into employment and upskilling the region’s workforce so it can continue to fulfil the needs of a rapidly changing economy.”
The letter calls on the Government to reconsider the decision to set the threshold rate for adult education ‘under delivery’ at 90 per cent and instead offer a significantly lower threshold reflecting the difficult context of the Covid-19 pandemic as well an exceptional circumstances route noting differing local contexts.
The Chamber letter was co-signed by its members, Nadine Hudspeth of Gateshead College, Darren Hankey of Hartlepool College, Chris Todd of Derwentside College, Andrew Broadbent of New College Durham and Kate Roe of Darlington College.