No, I only have 10 minutes. I am so sorry.
The hon. Member for Blackpool South (Gordon Marsden) mentioned the Augar review, and he should be in no doubt that I have fed my feelings about further education into that review. It is an independent review, and we await it with anticipation; somebody asked about timescales, but I do not yet know when it will report. To reassure the hon. Gentleman, we certainly are not building any new colleges. Institutes of technology, which are possibly what he was referring to, are collaborations. That is not about new buildings; it is about collaborations between FE and HE.
I cannot rehearse all the valuable arguments that have been made, but we sometimes forget that despite all the challenges that FE faces, 81% of colleges are rated “good” or “outstanding”. However, I know that Ofsted has raised concerns about the financial stability of the sector and how finances constrain what FE colleges and sixth-form colleges can do, and of course we have heard a great deal about that today. The petition that underpins this debate was launched as part of the Association of Colleges’ campaign, “Love Our Colleges”—which I do. Campaigns such as this and “Raise the Rate” have helped raise the profile of this issue, and we have had 18 speakers today.
The hon. Member for Cambridge is right to talk about divisions; divisions in society underlie this whole debate. He is also right that further education has been left behind, not just in terms of finance but through the domination of the higher education sector, which has crowded out any conversation about further education and how crucial it is. We must ensure that everyone, whatever their age, background or prior educational attainment, can access the best opportunities that are available.
My hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) mentioned those with special educational needs. As we all know, the further education sector offers a particularly high-quality opportunity to make sure that those young people have a chance to get on in their lives. To talk a little bit about mental health, I am acutely aware of the particular stresses that disproportionately affect young people in further education. We are creating new mental health support teams to address those needs, and we will work with colleges to identify and train designated senior leads for mental health to oversee mental health and wellbeing, with appropriate back-up support available. That is an important innovation.
My right hon. Friends the Members for Harlow (Robert Halfon) and for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) rightly pointed out that people develop at different stages in their life; it does not all happen for people at the ages of 16 or 18. For many people, school has not worked well. Examinations at 16 and 18 have not shown their true potential, and the door needs to remain open for those people. In my view, everybody has potential; everyone has skills, and is able to get a job or career and get on in their life. What they need is the opportunity to develop that potential.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes), who is always eloquent, gave us probably the most succinct description of the problems we face. Higher education has dominated Governments of all political persuasions; everyone, including the media, talks incessantly about higher education, and I well remember that at the hustings at my local university during the 2017 election, I was asked about tuition fees. My response was, “What about the 50% who do not go to university?” That did not go down terribly well, but I felt strongly about this issue then, long before I took on this job. My right hon. Friend probably answered his own question about apprenticeships: we were determined to raise the quality of apprenticeships, to make them high quality, relevant to the workplace and, critically, designed by employers. Such major reforms have inevitably resulted in a reduction in the numbers of apprenticeship starts, although that has started to turn around. There has been a rise in the numbers of level 4 and 5 and degree apprenticeships, and they are becoming a route of choice instead of full-time higher education courses, which is excellent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) rightly pointed out the additional maths premium. I am not going to go through a whole raft of all the things we have funded, but she is right that overall funding has not kept up with costs. She is also right that playing party politics does not help. I urge Members from all parts of the House to work together with me and with each other to ensure that we make the case. With the post-18 review looking at HE and FE, and with us also looking at the sustainability of the sector, that joint working is critical.
The hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) mentioned the cross-party nature of the debate and asked about underspends. It is likely that the Department answer will state that any underspend is recirculated among other departmental priorities. I will see whether there are further details on that, but the money stays within education— although like him, I would like to see it spent on further education. The hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) asked me what the priorities are. I make no particular judgment about the various educational sectors, whether that is higher education or schools, but we hear a lot about schools funding and tuition fees and we do not hear much about FE. He also asked about the case for that funding, and there is a clear economic case and a productivity case. As a country, we cannot afford not to adequately fund the education of 50% of the population to ensure we have the skills we need. On a very personal level, it is about social mobility, community growth and the fact that everyone deserves a chance.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell) mentioned mental health provision, which I have referred to, and the complex other needs of students in FE. Part of the case we need to make is that young people and adults often come into FE because their lives have been complex. Their learning needs are often not straightforward. Teaching and learning are only part of the job that FE staff do. There are often many other needs that must be met before any learning can begin to take place. I congratulate him on his thoughtful and collaborative approach. He is right that I need the help of all Members.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) is a real champion of her local college. She rightly raised the role that the college has played in her community, and it was a delight to hear her say that. That role is not measurable and is difficult to define, but it is of immense value. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) probably summed it up better than many. The hon. Lady talked about lifelong learning and how 35% of jobs are likely to disappear in the next 10 years due to automation. The national retraining scheme, where we are doing a lot of research into what works, has received £100 million from the Chancellor. There is collaboration between the TUC, the CBI and Government to address exactly the issues she raised.
I have talked about the sustainability of the further education sector and FE funding. In the run-up to the spending review, it is time to articulate the case for FE. We talk about it not being school or university, but we need a clear vision that everyone can get behind. We have identified some key issues about how we can put FE on a sustainable footing and deliver quality. There are many questions that we need to ask. How do we ensure a high-quality further education offer in each local area so that young people and adults have opportunities to develop their skills and employers can access the training and skilled recruits they need? We want FE to be sustainable. We know that area reviews have done some of the work, but there is probably more work and more collaboration to do. The 16 to 18-year-old population has been declining for several years, but we will see an increase after 2020. By 2028, there will be a quarter more 16-year-olds than there are today, so the problem is coming up behind us.
T-levels do not distract from the issue; they are an add-on. Often in parliamentary questions I give an answer about how much we are spending on T-levels. It is important. It is not a substitute for core funding, and I am aware of that. We also want to see a better and more visible offer for people at level 4 and level 5 in technical education. The Secretary of State emphasised that in his speech last month. What is the role of FE and HE institutions? What is the role of learning and grant funding? Those issues are all bound up in the post-18 review. There are also the key steps we have to take to help colleges recruit and train the teachers they need.
I thank the hon. Member for Cambridge again for securing the debate and I thank everyone for their contributions. I reassure Members that I will take the issues away and continue to champion FE as we prepare for the spending review. I reject any suggestion that I do not care about further education. I did not go to university; I went by a route that included further education, and I am the first to challenge the intellectual snobbery that pervades much of the mainstream media and broadcast media. We have to turn that around. I want a society where it does not matter where someone came from—