Angela joined forces with Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn to address a rally in London supporting colleges and the Further Education sector.
Addressing the rally, Angela said: “We have a (not so) hidden crisis in our education sector. The Prime Minister claimed that austerity is over, when will she end the austerity agenda in Further Education? The reason why I’m an MP is because of Further Education. I left school with hardly any qualifications, but I was given a second chance when I took a sign language course at a local college. Then, when I started working as a home-help, I studied for a qualification in care. This is why I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe Further Education is one of the most undervalued and undermined parts of our education system.
“Colleges play a vital role in communities across this country. They provide an education for all those who need it and high quality skills training which is absolutely crucial for our economy. Unfortunately though, this doesn’t seem to be understood by Tory ministers. In the past eight years, the sector has seen its funding cut by over £3 billion and research shows that by the end of this decade, real terms spending per student will drop to the same level as it was in the 1980s.
“Unsurprisingly, these funding challenges have put an untenable amount of pressure on colleges and on teachers. The recent education spend report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies claimed that the FE sector has been the biggest “loser” of funding changes.
“And this is particularly noticeable when you look at the damage the Tories have caused in adult education. Adult education is so often misunderstood by those in and outside of Whitehall. For many, it is seen as something you do in your free time – it’s learning a new language before a weekend away or learning how to paint one evening a week.
“While this is a part of it, lifelong learning is also about ensuring that there are enough skilled people in work to deliver the country’s industrial strategy. It’s about ensuring that the NHS has enough workers, that there are enough people to look after our rapidly ageing population and that we have the builders, plumbers and electricians needed to meet the demands of the housing crisis.
“This is why lifelong learning is such an important part of Labour’s National Education Service and why our charter explicitly references working alongside other government departments to create a strong and inclusive economy.
“However, after a decade in power the Tories have decimated adult education. The adult education budget has been cut by 45% and, as a result, we’ve seen qualifications for health and social care workers drop by 68%, qualifications for engineers (including plumbers and electricians) drop by 68% and qualifications in IT drop by 89%.
“This, in and of itself, is deeply concerning. But it becomes even more alarming when you consider the increasingly complex challenges the sector will face over the next few years – Brexit, the devolution of the adult education budget and T-Levels for a start.
“All of these issues will stretch the further education sector – which continues to face significant financial pressure following years of cuts and upheaval – to breaking point. I know the sector will continue to fight on, as they have done for the past eight years.
“As this rally demonstrates, those that work and study in FE are strong, resilient and passionate. But I worry that there is only so much more it can take. At Tory Party Conference the Prime Minister claimed that austerity is over. At the Budget the Government should put their money where their mouth is and finally end the austerity agenda in education.”