17th October 2018
Barking & Dagenham College Principal, Yvonne Kelly, joined a national protest outside Parliament to demand that the Government looks at the worrying impact that funding cuts to colleges could have for the UK.
The protest and lobby of Parliament was part of the ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign, a national event aimed to raise awareness of the important work of colleges. New research released today by the Association of Colleges (AOC) shows that over half (58%) of small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) across the UK are warning that the country risks being ‘left behind’ if the Government doesn’t address skills gaps through education. As the report also highlights that these businesses believe that it is colleges (48%) that are seen as the best place to skill the future workforce (compared to Universities (30%) and schools (21%)), it is time for Government to rethink the funding of further education facilities, which have seen over a decade worth of cuts so far.
Yvonne joined over 3,000 Principals, staff and students to demand enough is enough. She explains:
The new report highlights that colleges receive the same amount of funding now that they did in 1990. In fact it shows the only part of the education budget to have had year-on-year cuts since 2010 is further education*. It means that we're dealing with an average funding cut of 30%. Continued cuts to colleges will limit our ability to fill skills gaps that are and will be needed in our local and national workforce. This will have an adverse impact on the UK economy now and in future years.
The sheer number of people who attended the protest, demonstrates just how important college staff and students feel these issues are. ‘Love Our Colleges’ is calling on government to increase 16-19 funding by 5% a year for five years. It is also asking the Department for Education to provide exceptional funding, ring-fenced for teacher pay.
Now is the time that we should be investing in further education. Barking & Dagenham College already supports over 12,000 people per year to learn and train and we want to ensure we can continue to help produce a vital skilled local workforce. But if we are to survive a skills shortage, then we have to be able to offer the right courses and training opportunities. This can’t happen if there is no budget for it. Not only that, we need to ensure we have the right teaching staff. With college teachers already being paid less than school staff (the AOC report notes college teachers are paid less than 80% of the rate of school staff), we are being faced with hurdles from every direction and this will undoubtedly hinder any college’s ability to meet the future demands of a post-Brexit UK.
Local businesses have also been showing their support of Barking & Dagenham College and their views on the impact further cuts could have. FixAuto for example aired an opinion held by many, commenting this week that cuts were a ‘disaster and a disgrace, which do nothing for employers trying to foster a skilled workforce.’
The ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign is a partnership between Association of Colleges (AoC), National Union of Students (NUS), Association of College and School Leaders (ASCL), University and Colleges Union (UCU), Unison, GMB, TUC and National Education Union (NEU)