THERE is huge concern within the world of adult education that the Government is about to clawback millions of pounds from colleges.

If colleges are not hitting 90 per cent of their student number targets, the Government is to ask for its money back.

Perhaps in normal times, this would be fair. But the last year has been far from normal because so many learners have either been unable or unwilling to join courses because of the pandemic, and many practical courses have been either curtailed or not run because of the restrictions.

Therefore, it does seem unfair that in this exceptional year, where colleges have had huge extra expense to make sure they are Covid secure and to ensure as many students as possible have access to remote learning, that the Government is to demand money back.

In fact, it seems doubly wrong because colleges and adult learning are going to be vital if, as unemployment grows as the furlough scheme is withdrawn, the country is going to bounce back better and get people reskilled and in to new jobs.

And, of course, a region like ours, where the unemployment rate is already higher than the national average, is one which will need those courses more than other areas – which the Government’s levelling up agenda accepts.

So we add our voice to that of the North-East Chamber of College and urge the Government to have rethink.