To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on enabling greater flexibility to the rules on capital grants for further education colleges to allow that funding to be spent on laptops and IT software provision for disadvantaged students who require them in order to effectively continue their studies.
8 December 2020
All further education colleges and designated institutions eligible to receive the Further Education Capital Allowance grant were asked to sign up to the terms and conditions as set out in their grant letter. The terms of this capital grant were negotiated between Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Department for Education and were clear. Funding should be used to address condition improvement of substandard or deteriorating buildings in the college or institution estate identified in the Further Education Condition Data Collection (undertaken by the department) or through a college’s own more detailed survey. This includes IT infrastructure, where identified as requiring remedial action. Hardware and software (including laptops) do not constitute IT infrastructure and are therefore are not eligible for capital spend under the terms of this grant.
However, further education providers have been able to use their 16-19 bursary funding to purchase devices and connectivity for disadvantaged students aged 16-19 where this is a barrier to learning. Earlier in the year, additional funding was made available to further education providers via a business case process, to support them with additional costs arising from students participating in education online. In addition, in August 2020, we announced that colleges can access help with device needs for students aged 14-16 attending a further education provider through the ‘Get Help with Technology’ service. For adults aged 19 and over, we introduced a change to the Adult Education Budget (AEB) funding rules for the 2020/21 academic year to enable providers to use learner support funds to purchase IT devices for disadvantaged students to help them meet technology costs. In areas where the AEB budget is devolved, mayoral authorities determine adult student support arrangements.