A sustained period of reduced funding for further education has placed many further colleges under significant financial pressure.  In response colleges have adapted and changed their provision and cut courses. 

On 20 July 2015, the Skills Minister, Nick Boles, announced plans for a restructuring of the post-16 education and training sector, through a series of area based reviews of provision.  A phased series of reviews, covering all further education and sixth form colleges, will take place over an eighteen month period and will be completed by March 2017.   

The Government expects the area reviews to support a transition towards fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers, and more effective collaboration across institution types.  Each review will be led and overseen by a ‘local steering group’ consisting of chairs of governors, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), local authorities, FE and Sixth Form College Commissioners and Regional School Commissioners. All reviews will start by assessing the educational and economic needs of the local area, before evaluating institutional options to meet that need. The options could include greater specialisation, mergers or closures of institutions.

The Lbrary briefing, Post-16 Area Reviews (CBP 7357) contains background information including the reviews’ rationale, scope, implementation and reaction to them.


Press articles

Guardian, 25 November 2015

Further education sector’s relief as government pulls back from further cuts

Guardian, 3 November 2015

Hand it over, higher ed: why colleges deserve universities’ funding

FE Week, 19 October 2015

FE Commissioner reveals early post-16 area review findings

FE Week, 8 September 2015

Future of nearly 40 colleges in question as BIS and DfE reveals those facing area reviews

TES, 20 July 2015

Colleges face axe in government’s streamlined vision of post-16 education

Guardian, 24 June 2015

Skilled workers ‘may vanish’ if further education budget cuts continue

Parliamentary coverage


Topical Questions

Asked by: Kate Hollern

As everyone knows, if we are to improve productivity, we need a good, strong education system. Will the Secretary of State give a categorical assurance that further education institutions, such as Blackburn College in my constituency, will not receive a real-terms funding cut as a result of the cash-terms freeze in adult and 16-to-19 funding?

Answered by: Sajid Javid

I agree with the hon. Lady on the issue of productivity and the need to boost skills. There will be area reviews, so I cannot make a promise about any particular institution. However, as the Minister for Skills has said, there will be an increase in FE funding of more than 35% in real terms over the lifetime of the Parliament. In the hon. Lady’s constituency, there has been a 75% increase in apprenticeship starts during the past five years, which I am sure she welcomes.

15 Dec 2015 | Oral questions – 1st Supplementary | 603 c1399

Adult Skills (Funding)

Asked by: Barbara Keeley

Salford city college was one of more than 100 further education colleges that wrote to the Prime Minister to protest at repeated year-on-year real-terms funding cuts to adult skills since 2010 amounting to 40%. Despite the promise not to cut adult skills funding for FE colleges, Treasury documents say that there will be £360 million of savings and efficiencies, as my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) mentioned. After years of savage cuts, how can that be achieved?

Answered by: Nick Boles

Like many other colleges, the hon. Lady’s college wrote to the Prime Minister before the spending review in response to the shroud waving by the Opposition, who predicted a 25% to 40% cut in the adult skills budget. If the hon. Lady had taken the trouble to attend my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s spending review statement, she would have heard that he was protecting it in cash terms while increasing the funding for apprenticeships, which her college and others could bid for. If she spoke to her college, she would discover that, like all other colleges, it is pleasantly surprised by the funding settlement.

Higher-level Skills

Asked by: Mr Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Lab/Co-op)

Further education colleges are vital for apprenticeships in engineering and construction, in which there is an acute shortage of skills across the country. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the cuts in funding to FE colleges in terms of delivering this much-needed agenda?

Answered by: Sajid Javid

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is talking about cuts in FE spending. I know that is what Labour was scaremongering about just a few weeks ago, but we have actually protected the adult education budget in cash terms, we will double spending on apprenticeships by 2020 and we have extended the availability of advanced learner loans. Taken together, this will mean a 35% real increase in FE spending by 2020 compared with this year.

15 Dec 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | 603 c1383

Further Education

Asked by: Cunningham, Alex

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, pursuant to the Answer of 24 November 2015 to Question 16786, what estimate he has made of the (a) total, (b) staffing and (c) resources cost of conducting area-based reviews of post-16 education and training institutions.

Answering member: Nick Boles

The Departments and their agencies will undertake this work with no additional staffing. Additional costs will be minimal. The Departments and agencies have re-prioritised from within existing resources to accommodate the additional work, including providing access to additional advice and support from further education and six form colleges Advisers.

09 Dec 2015 | Written questions | 17719

Further Education: Finance

Asked by: Ryan, Joan

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of introducing three-year funding plans for further education colleges.

Answering member: Nick Boles

Any changes to funding of colleges will need to be seen in the wider context of other reforms. Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation set out our plans to increase local influence over further education (FE) and skill funding. We shall announce further reform to FE and skills funding systems following the spending review.

24 Nov 2015 | Written questions | 15809

Further Education

Asked by: Dowd, Peter

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, with reference to his Department’s publication, Reviewing post-16 education and training institutions, of 20 July 2015, how much his Department expects to save as a result of implementing the proposals set out therein.

Answering member: Nick Boles

The reviews are aimed at delivering a skills system that meets the economic and educational needs of areas whilst also ensuring the long term sustainability of colleges to support productivity. Their purpose is not to secure savings to Government. However, early evidence from the pilot reviews indicates that there is potential for the reviews to secure efficiency savings.

The second wave of area reviews will start in January 2016 and we aim to announce details within the next few weeks. We are currently looking at the geographies and phasing for other areas and will aim to issue further information on this before the end of the year but in doing this we recognise that the position should remain fluid to take account of the views of local partners and also cases of college failure. We expect all reviews to be completed by March 2017.

19 Nov 2015 | Written questions | 15484

Topical Questions

Asked by: Mr Gordon Marsden (Blackpool South) (Lab)

Further education has already been weakened by five years of Government funding cuts, so why are Ministers having hasty, half-cocked area reviews that threaten forced course and college closures? Figures released by the Library today suggest that the Chancellor is demanding at least £1.6 billion in FE cuts, and a new Green Paper proposes free-for-all providers that would threaten colleges’ higher education teaching. Are Ministers doing anything to stop FE being the spending review’s whipping boy?

Answered by: Sajid Javid

We have discussed this issue previously. As I have said, we want an even stronger FE sector that provides even more opportunities across the country, and local area reviews are essential for that. We need to understand local needs much more carefully, and local reviews will achieve that. We will then be able to offer more opportunities.

10 Nov 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | 602 c217

Further Education: Finance

Asked by: Smith, Mr Andrew

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, how much centrally-provided capital funding has been provided to each further education college in each of the last five years.

Answering member: Nick Boles

The amount of centrally-provided capital funding provided to each further education college in each of the last five years is shown in the attached table.

Table of capital funding to FE colleges (Excel SpreadSheet, 87 KB)

09 Nov 2015 | Written questions | 14240

Further Education: Teachers

Asked by: Marsden, Gordon

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what assessment he has made of the possibility that organisational changes resulting from further education area reviews may reduce the number of teachers employed to teach (a) mathematics and (b) English language subjects in the further education sector in England.

Answering member: Nick Boles

This Department does not hold this information. The Further Education (FE) sector is independent of government and responsible for its own operations. We therefore do not collect information about the numbers of English or mathematics teachers employed by FE institutions.

This Department has ongoing discussions with FE stakeholder organisations about the importance of increasing the number of teachers of mathematics in the sector, as set out in our FE Workforce Strategy published in 2014. The government, through its support of bursaries and other workforce programmes, provided 199 bursaries to individuals to become maths teachers in the Further Education sector in 2013/14 and 2014/15, and also supported 2450 existing teachers to take maths enhancement programmes.

Area Reviews of Post-16 education and training are aimed at delivering a skills system that meets the economic and educational needs of areas. All reviews will include consideration of the need for sufficient, high quality maths and English teaching. As independent organisations, colleges and providers will determine the number of teachers they need to deliver this provision.

03 Nov 2015 | Written questions | 13448

Topical Questions

Asked by: Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab)

In his written statement of 20 July, the Minister of State for Skills announced that the aim of area-based reviews of post-16 provision would be to create “fewer, larger” providers, and that colleges would remain “independent institutions.” Will the Minister explain how those two statements demonstrate policy coherence or indeed any logic at all? Will he confirm that the only means by which he can reconcile those statements is by cutting off funds to starve colleges into submission. Is that what he will do?

Answered by: Nick Boles

I am slightly surprised at the hon. Gentleman who is a great man and a great Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. He knows full well that it has required no arm twisting or strong arming by Government to encourage lots of colleges to combine with each other to form very successful groups. Manchester College and others are great examples of it. It is that kind of sensible consolidation to increase the strength of the college system that we will be encouraging through the area reviews.

15 Sep 2015 | Oral questions – Supplementary | 599 c903

Further Education: Finance

Asked by: Field, Frank

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what assessment he has made of the effect of changes to the adult skills budget on the long-term financial stability of the further education sector.

Answering member: Nick Boles

The financial health of further education colleges is under constant review by the Skills Funding Agency based on self-assessment information from colleges and the publication of college accounts. Colleges with inadequate financial health are subject to intervention led by the FE Commissioner.

Across all our grant, loan and capital support for adult FE, we are making available over £3bn in 2015-16 and our funding mechanism is designed to allow providers the freedoms and flexibilities to decide how best to use their allocation to respond to local learner and employer demand. As autonomous organisations it is up to colleges to manage their own budgets.

Apprenticeships are our priority for skills and colleges have been encouraged to expand their apprenticeship offer. As government funding has reduced, many colleges have responded well by looking at generating other income streams and creating sustainable business models for the future. This entrepreneurial approach will help ensure sustainable future business models with less reliance on government funding.

In order to address the significant financial pressures on institutions, a declining 16-19 population and the need to maintain very tight fiscal discipline in order to tackle the deficit, a major reform of post-16 education and training institutions is necessary. On 20 July the Departments for Education and Business, Innovation and Skills announced a programme of area-based reviews to review 16+ provision in every area. These reviews will provide an opportunity for institutions and localities to restructure their provision to ensure it is tailored to the changing context and designed to achieve maximum impact.


Further Education

Tenth opposition day debate (part two).

18 Nov 2015 | 602 cc744-88


Further Education

The Government’s Productivity Plan: Fixing Foundations sets out the government’s ambition for a professional and technical education system that provides individuals with clear, high-quality routes to employment, and that supports the government’s overall fiscal and economic objectives

20 Jul 2015 | Written statements | HCWS152

Related posts