‘Learners from the most deprived backgrounds are being hung out to dry by a government that has promised to increase social mobility but instead continues to cut vital funding for those who need it most.
Last month’s decision to cut maintenance grants for the most disadvantaged students is the latest in a series of government decisions that threaten to derail social mobility progress. It is part of a pattern that can be seen in other areas of government. It mirrors the removal of NHS bursaries for nurses and other staff, and has been foreshadowed by changes that the government has made in support for further education over the past few years.
Lifelong learning in the UK has declined by 21 per cent in the past eight years – contrasted with a 15 per cent rise across Europe. The government is threatening £360 million worth of “efficiencies” in the adult skills budget outside apprenticeships, which will impact on part-time and adult learners at FE colleges. Alongside adult learners, the government’s own impact assessment shows a disproportionate effect on black and minority ethnic, disabled, female and Muslim students, each affected in their own way by the disastrous decision to remove the crucial maintenance grant.
The government is so focused on apprenticeship numbers to the exclusion of other forms of retraining and skills work that it has a fatal blind spot. This all just ties into a blunt instrument strategy: making savings and cuts to fit artificial austerity targets, to the detriment of disadvantaged students. But it’s their potential and life chances for which our social cohesion and economic growth will pay a heavy price.’ - Gordon Marsden in TES