From education to employment

Budget Freezes to hit Welsh Further Education Providers

Welsh Assembly Government proposals to freeze the budget of Further Education Colleges for 2006 / 2007 are a strong concern, says fforwm, the association of further education colleges and institutions in Wales.

The National Planning and Funding System (NPFS) has been developed for all post-16 education and training providers outside higher education and is due to be phased in over a number of years. The issue has been raised with the Welsh Assembly by the fforwm. Chief Executive John Graystone says: “The budget freeze came out of the blue. Colleges had no idea that they were going to be facing long term cuts in funding.”

Potential Problems

fforwm says that the effect of the provisional budgets that have just been published suggest that the new funding system will have a huge negative impact on vocational learning and learning in the workplace. It is also thought that the new system will have a significant effect on the numbers of part-time learners as well as on adult learning, community learning and outreach work.

The organisation believes that the new funding system will mean that no pay increases will be given to staff in 2006 / 2007, redundancies will be made, courses cut and students turned away. Further fallout is possible and there could be a threat to the viability of those FE institutions which concentrate on adult learners. Colleges have been warned that the situation is likely to get even worse, with most expected to be facing problems by 2009 / 2010.

According to fforwm, the new provisional funding system actually goes against the policy of the Welsh Assembly government to reduce competition between education providers.. It appears to favour 16-18 year old learners on academic courses, thus putting colleges into more competition with schools. fforwm believes that whilst the Welsh Assembly Government wants to see pay parity between FE lecturers and schoolteachers and widening participation for learners over the age of 16, none of this will be achievable with a budget that doesn”t allow for inflation.

Budget “Not yet Finalised”

Whilst fforwm has highlighted the likely outcome for colleges should the provisional funding system be put in place, John Graystone says that the funding allocations have not yet been finalised and that his organisation are currently in talks with the Welsh Assembly Government. He says: “We very much hope that the Welsh Assembly Government will revise the funding allocations to make sure that we can deliver what learners need.”

With only four months to go before the funding allocations come into force, any such revisions would need to be made quickly indeed.

Joel Goldman

Keep your finger on the FE pulse at FE News!

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