A Public Accounts Committee oral evidence hearing on financial sustainability in the further education sector heard committee chair Meg Hillier MP refer to evidence from Capel Manor College in Enfield highlighting that apprenticeships "are more difficult in that area".
She said: "For their balance of budget to work for the sort of students they have, more adult skills and slightly fewer apprenticeships would work, but they are getting more apprenticeships and fewer adult skills—a big cut in the adult skills budget.
She asked Skills Funding Agency/Education Funding Agency chief executive Peter Lauener: "How are you supporting colleges with that sort of difficulty and ensuring that they are actually training students with the skills that are needed for the future for their area? Will this come out in the area review or is it just tough for those colleges?"
Lauener replied: "That takes us straight into spending review territory and the decisions Ministers will need to take about all the budget priorities, including adult skills funding."
He added: "The adult skills budget, outside of apprenticeships, has been cut and the apprenticeships budget has been increased. One of the reasons I went to Capel Manor college was that it has had a significant capital investment supported by the Skills Funding Agency. I think that the principal [Steve Dowbiggin] was hoping that it would help them to build their apprenticeships as well. He made the very same point to me, so I do not take it lightly, that some kinds of education do not fit quite as well in the apprenticeship world.
"What we are doing—what Ministers are doing—is reforming apprenticeships with new standards, with trailblazer groups setting up these new standards. Over the next five years, we will see quite a radical change to the standards for apprenticeships. I hope that some will work in the horticultural sectors, which is Capel Manor’s very great specialty."
Meanwhile in an adjournment debate last week, Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, said further education colleges had seen adult skills budgets hit by unprecedented cuts. She highlighted Capel Manor - one of her local colleges - which she said had suffered a funding cut for adult skills of 28 per cent in February, only to be followed by a further 3.9 per cent in July after governors had sign off on their budgets.
She asked: "What assurance can the minister give today that there will be no further cuts in the Spending Review?
The Spending Review will be announced on Wednesday.