Otley job cuts fear after funding fall

A SUFFOLK-BASED further education college is planning to cut its staff because of a funding shortfall.Around 30 support staff and management jobs are expected to go at Otley College, near Ipswich, after the commercial funding it was hoping to raise for the new academic year starting in September 2007 fell below target.

By Sarah Chambers

A SUFFOLK-BASED further education college is planning to cut its staff because of a funding shortfall.

Around 30 support staff and management jobs are expected to go at Otley College, near Ipswich, after the commercial funding it was hoping to raise for the new academic year starting in September 2007 fell below target.

Principal Philip Winfield said they had fallen short by around £700,000, and although they were still hoping to bring in more funds, it was anticipated that around 30 staff would be offered redundancy packages.


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But the college said it also anticipated some new posts would be created and other areas of income explored to strengthen its position.

“We will continue to consider the various ways in which we can support staff affected by any changes and sympathise with their concern,” he said.

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“This situation is disappointing, but we need to increase our efficiency, continue to offer high quality educational programmes, whilst looking at new ways of securing a stronger financial position for the college in the future.”

He said he would like to personally assure staff affected that they would do everything they could to offer as much support, advice and guidance as possible.

Further education colleges are under pressure from Government to raise more finances from the private sector for some of their training courses, such as work-based learning and apprenticeship schemes.

The college, which has around 8,000 full and part-time students and employs around 450 people, said at this stage, teaching staff would not be affected by the job cuts.

“Basically the shortfall is in what we call our commercial income,” said Mr Winfield.

“It's work we generate ourselves. We go out and try and recruit students to it, or learners to it.”

He described the situation as “regrettable”, pointing out that the college had achieved a “good” grading in their Ofsted report, and welcomed record numbers of students.

“There's more pressure on us now to develop commercial streams of income,” he said.

The shortfall was due to a number of factors, he said. The college's “traditional” income from the Government is unaffected, but it is now looking for more income from employers to support certain courses.

“We have got a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises in Suffolk and obviously they are under difficulties as well,” he said.

As well as relying largely on smaller businesses for training contracts, the college is still trying to shake off its image as a small, rural site offering a few agricultural courses.

“I suppose it's about a lot of employers knowing about us and that we are more than just a small agricultural college,” he said. “We do have a lot to offer for them.”

It recently changed its logo - which used to include a bull - to try and get the message out there to employers that it now runs a vast range of courses, encompassing mechanics, sport, IT, catering and building trades.

“The educational environment in which we operate continues to be challenging and competitive. Therefore, we must be highly responsive to any changes that are enforced upon us, and whilst it saddens us to make these changes, moving forward, our mission of continuing to provide training and education to the wider community of Suffolk still remains,” said Mr Winfield.

Peter Freeborough, partnership director at Learning and Skills Council Suffolk said: “Otley College has made good progress in increasing its range of provision to meet Government targets and the Learning and Skills Council's priorities. The college has kept us informed of the current staffing situation, and we are confident that the matter will be dealt with sensitively and efficiently.”

Will Horton-Fawkes, secretary of the Otley College branch of the University and College Union, said staff were “upset” that news of the job losses had been announced at a late stage in the academic year, making it harder to find other jobs and were feeling “depressed, angry, fed up”.

“The timing has got to be bad, because for people looking at alternative jobs it's now getting quite late for September,” he said.

A lot of the students needed the extra help offered by support staff, he said.

“We can't see how it's going to be good for the college,” he said.

*In a separate move, a further education food course is set to be cut at the college as the small numbers of students enrolled made it unviable to continue next academic year, Mr Winfield said. Alternative provision was being offered to the 14 students affected, he added. Other food and catering-based courses at the college are unaffected.

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