Colleges across Yorkshire back campaign call for fairer funding

A pressure to 'deliver more for less' has never been greater in the county's colleges, education leaders have warned, preparing to lobby Government as they back calls for fairer funding.

Association of Colleges chair Carole Stott MBE met with principals and chairs across Yorkshire at East Riding College on Friday to discuss Colleges Week, fair funding and fair pay.

Some 15 colleges across Yorkshire have signed up to the Love our Colleges campaign, highlighting work that education institutions across the country do.

And, in the wake of findings from the Institute of Fiscal Studies that real terms funding has fallen eight per cent since 2010, college leaders and unions are preparing to lobby Parliament calling for extra cash.

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Students are being “short-changed” when it comes to further education, principals in Yorkshire have said, with some settings seeing fewer teaching hours, cost-cutting on staff salaries and a stretched resource.

“Severe cuts to further education funding have led to job losses, course closures and fewer learning opportunities,” said general secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, backing the campaign which is spearheaded by the Association of Colleges. “The situation is completely unsustainable. If the Government really wants everyone to access the skills they need to get on in life, it must urgently invest.”

The Love Our Colleges campaign is calling on Government to increase 16-19 funding by five per cent a year with ring-fenced funding for teacher pay, and college staff and students are to lobby Parliament on October 17.

Angela Foulkes, chief executive and principal of The Sheffield College, said colleges had a huge impact on transforming young people’s lives, and there was much to celebrate about the region’s offering. But the impact of “significant” real terms funding cuts, she added, was being felt.

“We work with a huge diversity of people, and we do change lives,” she said. “This is very much about campaigning about the fantastic work further education provides.

“But this campaign is also very much about investing in further education. These are significant reductions, that are not in line with other parts of education.”

Bradford College interim chief executive, Chris Malish, said it is becoming difficult to deliver outstanding student experiences while mitigating cost pressures.

“Colleges require an adequate level of funding to ensure viability as without this it could pose a real threat to the availability and choice of education provision,” he warned.

Mike Welsh, principal and chief executive of East Riding College, said further educations had seen funding cuts of 30 per cent over the last 10 years.

“In response to those changes and cuts many of us have evolved into dynamic, flexible and responsive organisations, but the pressures to deliver ‘more for less’ have never been greater,” he said. “In the context of Brexit, delivering a skilled workforce is more important than ever, and to do this we need fair funding and fair pay in order to give our students a fair chance.”

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton, citing planned £500m annual investments to deliver T Levels, said the base rate of funding for 16 to 19-year-olds is protected. “However I am very aware of the funding pressures,” she said. “The Education Secretary announced a further £38m so that colleges can invest in high quality equipment and facilities to support the roll out of T Levels. We will continue to look carefully at funding for the sector in preparation for the next Spending Review.”