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Head of Colleges for NATFHE Responds to Education Secretary’s Comments on FE Funding Gap

Barry Lovejoy, Head of Colleges for NATFHE, the University and College Lecturers” Union, has responded to the statement from Education Secretary Ruth Kelly on closing the funding gap between FE and schools.

Speaking at the Association of Colleges (AoC) Conference yesterday, Ruth Kelly stated that she recognised the need to enhance FE funding to close the gap between schools and the FE sector, commonly placed at about 13% excluding VAT. She said that through a programme of changes, including some measures that she described as “technical changes” which would seem to be procedural alterations, the Government would move FE funding closer to that of schools, with an initial closing of the gap to 8% in the short term and a longer term goal of 5% in the years following.

The Funding

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC), with a budget for the coming year of some £10.4 billion for FE, has in the past been criticised for diverting some needed funding from front line provision to administration. The LSC has responded by announcing the Agenda for Change which seeks to lead to a lighter and more responsive regime.

Ruth Kelly stated yesterday that extra funding would have to be drawn from the private sector, either individuals or organisations with an interest in the improvement of skills levels. Reacting to the statement yesterday, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) welcomed the move to close the funding gap, but cautioned against any move that drew money from schools in the process.

NATFHE on Funding

Speaking from the protest outside the Conference for fairer pay deals for FE Lecturers on yesterday’s brisk November afternoon, Barry Lovejoy reacted to Ruth Kelly’s statements, saying: “Ruth Kelly has taken a step in the right direction but she has not gone far enough. Her pledge to reduce the 13% funding gap by 5% next year will not spell the end of colleges being forced to provide education on the cheap ““ that will only happen when the gap is eliminated.”

He continued: “It has been five years since the government first pledged to address the schools – colleges funding gap, so our members have waited too long for too little, despite delivering the skills so central to government priorities.” He also mentioned the issue of pay deals, which the Education Secretary refused to be drawn on. “Today’s announcement still leaves enormous difficulties in reaching a resolution to the problem of lecturers” pay”.

Jethro Marsh

Too little too late? Or a step in the right direction? You decide in the FE Blog

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