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New Fairy Godmother of the Cinderella Sector

Ellie Russell, the National Union of Students (NUS) VP of Further Education, has responded to reports that adults are being turned away from courses by blaming the Government’s “same pounds, different pot” approach to rising participation in the FE sector.

Speaking exclusively to FE News, she singled out the pulling power of the bribe-inspired Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and, whilst not making any direct accusations, hinted at the Governments penchant to divert funding rather than increase it, which is consequently forcing colleges to close their doors on non-priority individuals.

Little or Nothing for Adult Learners

Last month the President of the National Union of Students, Kat Fletcher, said she had heard numerous reports of adults being refused access to tuition; reports which were backed up by an employee of a further education college in a fringe meeting at the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) Annual Congress.

News of selective enrolment is hardly surprising considering the instructions emanating from Westminster. In a recent article by Jethro Marsh, it was reported that financial support for post-19 education had been cut by approximately 3% in order to focus on Government policy. Although the budget accommodates for Basic Skills training (up to Level 2), other adult provision has been hit hard to prioritise the expanding younger target group.

“The effect of the EMA and the adult ethos of FE colleges mean that more and more 16-19 year olds are choosing to continue their education in these institutions. This along with the Governments emphasis on 16-19 provision and their Adult Education funding policy, means that colleges are having to make tough choices and its hardly surprising that adult courses are having to be rationed,” said Ms Russell.

New Fairy Godmother of the Cinderella Sector

Back In July when Ellie officially stepped into her role as VP FE she declared it as “exciting times for FE unions in NUS”.

Co-convening the Student Union Development campaign and continuing the good work of last year’s campaign to increase representation and activism in the FE sector through Students” Unions, she promises to create “a strong national voice for FE students” and fight for fairer funding.

She is also not afraid to “name and shame” institutions without student governors.

“The further education sector is the Cinderella sector in terms of student funding, lecturer pay, student union block grants and facilities for students. The funding levels of Further Education institutions absolutely need to be on a par with that of school-based sixth forms, there needs to be an end to hidden course costs and unfair fee hikes.” she said.

Ellie Russell, formally SU President of Haywards Heath College, was overwhelmingly elected by further education students at the NUS Annual Conference in April of this year. 

Phillip Byrne, Union Affairs Correspondent

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