FUNDING OF FURTHER EDUCATION – 18 May 2004

Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Nicholas Winterton): May I make a strong request to Members who wish to participate? At least seven Members wish to speak and we have only half an hour before I should start the winding-up speeches. If Members limit their remarks to about four minutes, all will get in. If they do not, there is nothing that I can do about it…

Dr Julian Lewis: The hon. Member for Luton, North (Kelvin Hopkins) has stolen my metaphor – I was going to describe Brockenhurst College as a jewel in the educational crown of the New Forest, but that is not incompatible with what he said about the outstanding college in his constituency.

Normally, when Brockenhurst College contacts me, it is to report some good news or an outstanding success. Occasionally, it does so to invite me to participate in an event or, at General Election time, in some sort of quasi-parliamentary debate with aspiring parliamentarians.

Today, however, the principal of the college, Mike Snell, who is not unduly alarmist, told me that a major crisis in further education funding is felt to be building up in Hampshire, and that its 22 FE colleges are in for a rough time next year. He has calculated the amount that Brockenhurst College gets to be £3,400 per sixth-former per year. As far as he has been able to work out – he stands firmly by these figures – most schools get at least £300 to £400 more than that per sixth-former per year, and schools with smaller sixth forms could get as much as £700 to £800 more per pupil per year.

It is said that all good speeches should make a single point. My point is that the difference is unfair. Will the Minister consider trying to provide similar funding per pupil per annum for sixth-formers doing similar courses, whether they are in colleges of further education, sixth form colleges, or school sixth forms? And I trust that that [brevity] meets with your approval, Mr Deputy Speaker.