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Cuts of 30% in 10 years prompts Suffolk colleges to unite in lobby for better funding

PUBLISHED: 16:12 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:13 23 October 2018

Representatives from East Coast College, West Suffolk College, Suffolk New College, One Sixth Form College and Easton and Otley College backing the Love OUr Colleges campaign Picture: KEITH MINDHAM

Representatives from East Coast College, West Suffolk College, Suffolk New College, One Sixth Form College and Easton and Otley College backing the Love OUr Colleges campaign Picture: KEITH MINDHAM

Keith Mindham

Sixth forms and colleges across Suffolk have united for a campaign to lobby the government for better funding.

Suffolk New College student Olivia Waters said better funding would provide better opportunities for students Picture: JOHN NICESuffolk New College student Olivia Waters said better funding would provide better opportunities for students Picture: JOHN NICE

The national Love Our Colleges campaign run by a host of education organisations and unions aims to highlight the importance of colleges and sixth forms, and call on the government to better fund further education.

A series of events was held last week to promote the cause, where Suffolk New College, Easton and Otley College, One Sixth Form, West Suffolk College and East Coast College united to shine a light on the importance of their work.

Ben Monks, regional support official for the University and Colleges Union (UCU) eastern region, said: “This has meant fewer students, school leavers and also adults have had less access to further education.

“That has also meant successive cuts in pay and a huge and growing disparity with colleges compared to the school sector in pay.”

Feature on Viv Gillespie, principle of Suffolk New College.Feature on Viv Gillespie, principle of Suffolk New College.

Mr Monks said “fewer staff are doing more work for less money” and added that the struggles in the FE sector had a wider impact on the area’s economy.

For students, the UCU said there were fewer opportunities for adults to retrain, and could lead to skills shortages in certain industries,

Suffolk New College leaders have also written to local MPs to outline the issues around college funding.

Data from the Association of Colleges as part of the campaign said that colleges had experienced an average funding cut of 30% over the last decade while costs continued to rise.

Data also suggested around 23,000 staff had left the profession during that time.

Suffolk New College student Olivia Waters, who is studying level three music and performance, said that learning a trade and personal progression were key to her college education.

“We are running out of skilled people in this country. If colleges had more funding they would be able to provide a greater range of options for students to choose,” the 19-year-old added.

Viv Gillespie, Suffolk New College principal, said: “The under-funding of the sector is having an adverse impact on the life chances of these young people.

“I therefore encourage everyone who reads this to help the campaign by signing the petition to increase funding in FE to sustainable levels.

“An increase in funding will allow colleges to further support young people to enhance their long-term prospects by entering the labour market with the skills they need to thrive and succeed.

“That is why I work in FE and why I am such a passionate advocate of the Love Our Colleges campaign.”

Education bosses have said they recognise the funding pressures in further education and are conducting a review.

Apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton, from the Department for Education, said: “Our schools and colleges have a vital role to play in making sure people of all ages have the skills they need to get on in life and I would like to thank them for their hard work.

“I am very aware of the funding pressures in further education which is why we are conducting an assessment of education, funding and the sustainability of the sector.

“This government plans to invest nearly £7billion this academic year to make sure there is a place in education or training, including apprenticeships, for every 16 to 19-year-old and we have protected the base rate of funding for 16-19 year olds until 2020.

She added: “We are also investing in the sector as we introduce our new gold standard T Levels from 2020, which will be backed by an additional £500m every year once they are fully rolled out.”

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