“We welcome the publication’s focus on how to improve education attainment among disadvantaged students and the report can provide a useful evidence base for this.
However students have told us that what they need to best help them succeed is more direct investment into further education (FE) rather than investing in a £20 million What Works Centre.
FE is in a funding crisis due to cuts since 2010, with students bearing the brunt of these cuts. The government must raise the rate to at least £4,760 per student as a priority if they are to improve attainment.
Based on my own experience as an FE student at The City of Liverpool College, as well hearing from other students across the country, I believe there are a number of initiatives which could make life better for disadvantaged students. They include:
- Travel passes: Travel passes for students with a household income of less than £25,000 who lived more than two miles away, had good attendance and were in full-time education. I benefitted from this too by only paying £20 for a term time bus pass, travelling to and from college could cost £20 a week (£2 a day at the time for a MyTicket, which is a day rider for under 18s in Merseyside)
- Bursary Grants: Allocated funding pot for students who met a similar criteria to the travel passes. I benefitted from this when I was a business student at the college and was granted £200 to buy a laptop so that I could do my coursework outside of the classroom and not be dependent on limited library resources in college or at home.
- Free School Meals in all centres: Cuts to FE meant cuts to college provisions. Rise in local businesses also meant that students opted for better food choices other than college canteens. Excess in food waste lead to the decision to withdraw canteen provisions in some centres, putting students on free school meals studying at the centre at risk. This lack of support meant many students had to spend time travelling to another college (Particularly those on free school meals) where their ID cards would allow them access to the meal allowance, or use their own limited resources to buy food elsewhere.
- Nurseries: The college had an onsite nursey for students with young children. This allows both access to education for the students as well as reliable and safe childcare for their young ones.
Direct investment in response to real student needs in their day-to-day lives is what’s needed to close the education attainment gap among disadvantaged students.”