- The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students, chaired by Paul Blomfield MP, will today publish their report examining the impact of cost-of-living pressures on students in further education.
- The report highlights cases of student poverty, increased safeguarding issues and impact on retention and drop-out because of cost-of-living pressures.
- The report includes key recommendations for the Government and the further education sector.
- Recommendations include subsidised travel for students in further education or training, increasing the apprenticeship minimum wage and additional funding for bursaries.
- The report has been produced in partnership with the APPG for Further Education and Lifelong Learning and is supported by APPG members from all main parties, including Labour MP’s Paul Blomfield, Conservative MP Robin Walker (who also chairs the Education Select Committee), Peter Aldous MP (chair of APPG for FE and Lifelong Learning), Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, and SNP MP Alison Thewliss.
The APPG for Students today publishes the second report of its inquiry launched in January into the financial position of further education students, building on its previous report on higher education. This follows extensive consultation with further education colleges, students, and sector experts.
The report outlines some of the consequences of the cost-of-living crisis on further education students, exacerbated by a decade of funding cuts in the further education sector. Findings include a negative impact on access to education and training for disadvantaged groups as well as reports of increased safeguarding issues such as exploitation and abuse, domestic violence, and mental health disclosures.
Evidence shows many further education students are missing classes and working excessive hours to support their families, prioritizing opportunities in the Labour market over longer-term education and training goals. Consequently, colleges outlined that they are seeing indications of a longer-term student retention crisis in further education.
APPG for Students Chair Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, commented:
“The cost-of-living crisis is clearly hitting many people hard and those on lowest incomes hardest. Further education should provide an opportunity for skills development and social mobility, however many of the young people and adults who might benefit most from further education and training are now – because of the cost-of-living crisis – less likely to take up opportunities to study, attend courses and achieve their potential.
At an individual level students may be less likely to secure stable employment, progress in work and increase their incomes, but at a national level the impact of the cost-of-living crisis means we will not see the desired economic growth and skills development at local, regional, and national levels which is critical to delivering the levelling-up policy agendas.
Our own research confirms the data from many other expert bodies. Recent financial pressures come on top of a decade of cuts to college budgets, meaning that there is no safety net of support for struggling students. These emerging issues will have longer-term consequences on both students and the further education sector, and particularly affect those already disadvantaged, undermining achievements in widening participation and access to tertiary education.
Our recommendations, prepared by a cross-party group, aim to tackle both the immediate crisis further education students face as well as the longer-term issues that are likely to impact not only a generation of students but on skills that are essential to the UK workforce. Given the consequences on mental health, career choices and access to education, addressing these issues in further education with targeted and localised interventions must be an essential part of any government response to students concerns during the cost-of-living crisis.”
The full report and recommendations can be read here.
Notes to Editors
- The APPG for Students inquiry has been led by its Chair Paul Blomfield MP. Other Officers of the APPG are the Conservative’s Robin Walker MP, the SNP’s Alison Thewliss MP, the Liberal Democrat’s Wera Hobhouse MP.
- Submissions to the inquiry’s call for evidence included 700 individual students, around 80 colleges, as well as sector and subject matter experts. Both written and oral evidence was received and reviewed by the APPG.
- Provide additional funding support for further education so that providers can increase bursaries and target those most in need.
- Review the mandated eligibility criteria for bursary funds to provide colleges with more flexibility to determine the students that are eligible and the support that is needed. Providers can then introduce more adaptive initiatives to support students.
- Consider the case for extending free school meal eligibility and increase the free meal rate from £2.41 per student, so that colleges can provide more subsistence support.
- Introduce free or subsided travel for all 16–19-year-olds in further education or training to help with travel costs.
- Increase the apprenticeship minimum wage and enable providers to use bursary funds to support apprentices.
- Take steps to ensure further education providers receive the appropriate data from local authorities to establish bursary and other needs in their student cohort, as currently happens in schools.
To further education providers:
- Undertake research on patterns of paid employment by college students and its impact on engagement, attainment, and outcomes, working with government on appropriate policy responses.
- Assess the mental health impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the student body and take appropriate measures to address it through student support services where possible.
- Recognise the role of student voice, and local communities, in ensuring FE provision meets localised needs and work with government to address this.