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Andrew Davies: Further education needs proper funding not funding cuts

Today's debate is a simple one. It is a debate about whether the Government supports the further education sector or not.

Time and again, Ministers have stood in the Chamber to tell us about the importance of training and the capacity that they are building in training.

However, when you go to the providers' forum and speak to the principals and chairmen of the FE colleges, it appears not to be the case.

What is further education in Wales? Further education is provided by 25 colleges and over 220,000 students attend further education colleges in Wales. Of those students, 82 per cent are part-time students and 18 per cent are full-time students. Indeed, 7,500 students seek to attain their higher education undergraduate status via FE colleges. Some 75 per cent of all students who attend further education colleges are over the age of 19. With regard to provision for 16 to 19-year-olds, more people train through the FE colleges than through school sixth forms Therefore, they are an integral part of providing the educational portfolio and the educational attainment levels that we need in Wales.

Sadly, the Government fails to recognise this. It has delivered a real-terms budget cut of £3 million in its settlement for further education colleges this year. If you look at Fforwm's request with regard to delivering increased capacity and meeting the demand among learners over the age of 19, it equates to a £20 million cut, because the budget provided by the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills to further education has been cut by more than appears to be the case on the surface, despite DCELLS gaining an increase in its overall budget settlement. This is surely an unsustainable approach. It demonstrates inconsistency, and the Government's lack of credibility in this field. There is inconsistency between what the Deputy First Minister and Minister for Economy and Transport talks about and what the Deputy Minister with responsibility for further education is delivering.

Look at the Government's record on including the further and higher education sectors in helping us to work through this economic crisis. Not one representative from the sector has been invited to your economic summits even though, time and again, Ministers have stood in the Chamber and said this is the main vehicle that will drive us out of the recession. Where was the further education sector, Minister? Where was the higher education sector? I doubt whether they were even on your horizon or on your radar. That must be corrected if your commitment to deliver a more sustainable further education sector in Wales is to be taken seriously.

We are two years into the convergence funding programme, but, so far, not one farthing has been delivered to a single further education college in Wales. What a lamentable record from the One Wales Government.

Look at the support that the One Wales Government offers disadvantaged families and families from financially-challenged backgrounds to attend academic courses in further education colleges. A 10 per cent cut in the financial contingency fund was delivered overnight to colleges last year because of financial pressures in the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills budget. We have just had a debate on lifting children out of poverty and yet the financial contingency fund, which is made available to further education colleges to help with childcare costs, bus fares and so on so that people can make themselves economically active and enhance their skills and be proactive in the marketplace, received a cut from this Government. When you look at the education maintenance allowance for post-16 provision, the debacle that the department has presided over has left, on 1 January, 4,500 students still waiting this valuable grant so that they can further their academic activity. So much for caring and so much for social justice from this Government.

This Government needs to show leadership to deliver a coherent strategy so that further education colleges can develop their courses and a sustainable pattern of education and can invest in their infrastructure and capacity to meet the goals in the way that many English further education colleges currently enjoy. If devolution is to succeed, people need to see real benefits in their everyday lives and the services around them, and when I talk to people in the further education sector and Fforwm, they tell me that they are falling behind their counterparts in England because of the lack of resources made available by the Welsh Assembly Government. Therefore, we also request that the Assembly Government gives serious thought to providing a three-year budget plan and commitment so that further education colleges can develop the coherent and joined-up planning that they desperately need in order to deliver. We want the Deputy Minister to explain why this is not being delivered to the FE sector when he responds to this debate this afternoon. I urge Members to support our motion."

"Dadl syml yw dadl heddiw. Mae'n ddadl ynghylch a ydyw'r Llywodraeth yn cefnogi'r sector addysg bellach ai peidio. Dro ar ôl tro, mae Gweinidogion wedi sefyll yn y Siambr i sôn wrthym am bwysigrwydd hyfforddi a'r capasiti y maent yn ei greu ym maes hyfforddi. Fodd bynnag, pan ewch i fforwm y darparwyr a siarad â phenaethiaid a chadeiryddion colegau addysg bellach, mae'n ymddangos nad felly y mae hi.

Beth yw addysg bellach yng Nghymru? Darperir addysg bellach gan 25 o golegau ac mae dros 220,000 o fyfyrwyr yn mynychu colegau addysg bellach yng Nghymru. O'r myfyrwyr hynny, mae 82 y cant yn fyfyrwyr rhan amser a 18 y cant yn fyfyrwyr amser llawn. Yn wir, mae 7,500 o fyfyrwyr yn ceisio ennill eu statws israddedigion addysg uwch drwy golegau addysg bellach. O'r holl fyfyrwyr sy'n mynychu colegau addysg bellach mae rhyw 75 y cant dros 19 mlwydd oed. O ran y ddarpariaeth i rai 16 i 19 oed, mae mwy o bobl yn hyfforddi drwy golegau addysg bellach na drwy chweched dosbarth ysgolion. Felly, maent yn rhan annatod o ddarparu'r portffolio addysg a'r lefelau cyrhaeddiad addysgol y mae arnom eu hangen yng Nghymru.

Gwaetha'r modd, nid yw'r Llywodraeth yn cydnabod hyn. Mae wedi cwtogi £3 miliwn ar y gyllideb mewn termau real yn ei setliad i golegau addysg bellach eleni. Os edrychwch ar gais Fforwm o ran cyflenwi capasiti mwy ac ateb y galw ymysg dysgwyr dros 19 mlwydd oed, mae'n gyfwerth â thoriad o £20 miliwn, oherwydd mae'r gyllideb a ddarperir gan yr Adran Plant, Addysg, Dysgu Gydol Oes a Sgiliau i addysg bellach wedi'i chwtogi fwy nag a ymddengys ar yr wyneb, er i'r adran gael cynnydd yn ei setliad cyllideb cyffredinol. Mae hyn, bid siŵr, yn ffordd anghynaliadwyo fynd ati. Mae'n dangos anghysondeb, a diffyg hygrededd y Llywodraeth yn y maes hwn. Mae anghysondeb rhwng yr hyn y mae'r Dirprwy Brif Weinidog a'r Gweinidog dros yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth yn siarad amdano a'r hyn y mae'r Dirprwy Weinidog â chyfrifoldeb am addysg bellach yn ei gyflenwi.

Edrychwch ar record y Llywodraeth o ran cynnwys y sectorau addysg bellach ac uwch yn y broses o'n helpu i weithio drwy'r argyfwng economaidd hwn. Nid oes un cynrychiolydd o'r sector wedi'i wahodd i'ch uwchgynadleddau economaidd er bod Gweinidogion, dro ar ôl tro, wedi sefyll yn y Siambr a dweud mai dyma'r prif gerbyd a wnaiff ein gyrru allan o'r dirwasgiad. Ble'r oedd y sector addysg bellach, Weinidog? Ble'r oedd y sector addysg uwch? Yr wyf yn amau a oeddent hyd yn oed ar eich gorwel nac ar eich radar. Rhaid cywiro hynny os ydych am i'ch ymrwymiad i gyflenwi sector addysg bellach mwy cynaliadwy yng Nghymru gael ei gymryd o ddifrif.

Yr ydym ddwy flynedd i mewn i'r rhaglen arian cydgyfeirio, ond, hyd yn hyn, nid oes dim un ffyrling wedi'i gyflenwi i ddim un coleg addysg bellach yng Nghymru. Dyna record druenus gan Lywodraeth Cymru'n Un.

Edrychwch ar y gefnogaeth y mae Llywodraeth Cymru'n Un yn ei chynnig i deuluoedd difreintiedig a theuluoedd o gefndiroedd tlawd i fynychu cyrsiau academaidd mewn colegau addysg bellach. Cafwyd toriad o 10 y cant yn y gronfa ariannol wrth gefn dros nos i golegau y llynedd oherwydd pwysau ariannol yng nghyllideb yr Adran Plant, Addysg, Dysgu Gydol Oes a Sgiliau. Yr ydym newydd gael dadl ar godi plant allan o dlodi ac eto mae'r gronfa ariannol wrth gefn, a ddarperir i golegau addysg bellach i helpu gyda chostau gofal plant, tocynnau bws ac ati, fel y gall pobl sicrhau eu bod yn economaidd weithredol a gwella'u sgiliau a bod yn rhagweithiol yn y farchnad, wedi cael ei chwtogi gan y Llywodraeth hon. Pan edrychwch ar y lwfans cynhaliaeth addysg ar gyfer darpariaeth ôl-16, mae'r llanastr y mae'r Llywodraeth wedi gweinyddu drosto wedi gadael 4,500 o fyfyrwyr, ar 1 Ionawr, yn dal i aros am y grant gwerthfawr hwn fel y gallant fwrw ymlaen â'u gweithgaredd academaidd. Dyna beth yw mesur gofal a dyna beth yw mesur cyfiawnder cymdeithasol gan y Llywodraeth hon.

Mae angen i'r Llywodraeth hon ddangos arweiniad i gyflwyno strategaeth gydlynol fel y gall colegau addysg bellach ddatblygu'u cyrsiau a phatrwm addysg cynaliadwy ac y gallant fuddsoddi yn eu hisadeiledd a'u gallu i gyflawni'r amcanion yn y modd y mae llawer o golegau addysg bellach Lloegr yn ei fwynhau ar hyn o bryd. Os yw datganoli am lwyddo, mae angen i bobl weld buddiannau go iawn yn eu bywydau bob dydd a'r gwasanaethau o'u cwmpas, a phan siaradaf â phobl yn y sector addysg bellach a Fforwm, dywedant wrthyf eu bod yn colli tir i'w cymheiriaid yn Lloegr oherwydd y diffyg adnoddau a ddarperir gan Lywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru. Felly, gofynnwn hefyd ar i Lywodraeth y Cynulliad feddwl yn ddifrifol am ddarparu cynllun ac ymrwymiad cyllideb tair blynedd fel y gall colegau addysg bellach ddatblygu'r cynllunio cydlynol y mae ei ddirfawr angen arnynt er mwyn cyflawni. Mae arnom eisiau i'r Dirprwy Weinidog egluro pam nad yw hyn yn cael ei gyflenwi i'r sector addysg bellach pan fydd yn ymateb i'r ddadl hon y prynhawn yma. Anogaf Aelodau i gefnogi ein cynnig.

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