From education to employment

Cuts announcement provokes mixed reaction from NUS

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Yesterday the Chancellor George Osborne and Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws enlightened us on the Coalition’s plans for £6bn worth of public sector cuts in their attempts to reduce the budget deficit and create a once again prosperous economy.

The plans outlined a series of proposals which have received a mixed reaction here at NUS.

The safeguarding of 16-19 participation is certainly welcomed as it will mean schools and colleges can carry on delivering 16-19 provision as they have been. However, by not increasing this funding, coupled with removing money from the Young People’s Guarantee, it is incredibly unclear how the new Government plan of tackling the problem we have of mass youth unemployment. In fact I am yet to hear of measures to tackle this problem on our society from this new coalition that offers young people the chance they desperately need to re-engage in work, education or training.

It’s also not clear where EMA fits with spending cuts in the Education Department. Whilst it’s comforting to have 16-19 participation spending protected, if the new government decide EMA doesn’t have an impact on participation (which people have said) they can justify making savings there too. Research carried out by NUS through our member students’ unions proves without a shadow of a doubt that the Education Maintenance Allowance has an undeniable impact on student participation post 16 across the spectrum. We can not now put that at risk by scrapping the scheme or playing around with entitlement and criteria.

NUS is disappointed that the Government has decided to close BECTA. NUS has worked closely with BECTA on several projects and they have been a great supporter of our work by sponsoring NUS FEstival and funding research projects such as Technology in Learner Voice and Next Generation Teaching and Learning. To me, in makes sense to invest in technology in education on two fronts. It means that a wider proportion of our society can access high quality education that would otherwise not have had the opportunity to do so and, economically, it means that savings can be made in the future when we become less reliant on traditional expensive methods of teaching and learning. As students, we are using technology more and more in our everyday lives and the utilisation of technology in education is already lagging behind.

We learned that £150m is being made available for capital projects in FE too. Whilst this is absolutely necessary, and should be welcomed, NUS would argue that clear criteria for this funding should be quickly established based on impacts and outcomes for students in order to prevent another bidding war between colleges.

We would also welcome the addition of 50,000 funded adult apprenticeships. However this is less than both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both pledged to create in their party manifestos and is only a drop in the ocean to tackle the number of people who are currently economically inactive.

All in all we should not get complacent. Whilst we sit back and wait for further breakdowns of cuts and savings from individual departments and of course the doom Emergency Budget on June 22 – we can not forget that we’ve still got a sector to run, a society to skill and an economy to jumpstart.

Shane Chowen is vice president (FE) of the NUS, a confederation of 600 FE and higher students’ unions

Read other FE News articles by Shane Chowen:

Bye Bye Bonuses

FE through the eyes of students


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