Over 100 adult students and lecturers at Lambeth College have launched a campaign to address the recent government cuts to adult education.
The event was organised by staff and students from the college where cuts in adult provision have netted a £2.3 million saving in this year alone.
Roger Kline, Head of Equality and Employment Rights at the University and College Union (UCU) spoke to the opening session of the conference: “So bad is Labour policy on adult education that we meet at a time when even the Tory front bench endorses much of what will be said today”.
It is hoped that the initiative taken by the campaigners in Lambeth will inspire others in London and around the country to take action. The government’s cuts are expected to reduce adult education places by one third in the next three years.
Mr Kline noted: “We have seen a continuing tension between the employers” view that adult education should primarily be little more than narrowly vocational training, and a more holistic adult education approach that seeks to combine vocational training with education for personal fulfilment, civic participation and community development”.
“Adult education in part as being about learning to learn, learning to think, learning to question and developing self confidence”.
He added: “We live in dangerous times. We are “the fifth richest country in the world”, which is planning to spend billions more on a Trident missile system we don”t need. With the small change from that project, we could build the best adult education system the world has ever seen”.
Former MP Tony Benn was also present at the conference and reminded delegates that “everyone benefits from everybody else’s education”.
The conference finally voted unanimously to adopt a resolution which includes fighting for national action against the cuts, the formation of local anti-cuts campaign committees and links with other campaigns and unions fighting the cuts in public services.
And in related news, the UCU believes staff governors in further education colleges can play a positive role in maintaining high quality courses.
Dan Taubman, UCU national FE official said: “Staff governors can play a vital role in helping to maintain high standards in colleges. UCU is keen for staff to take up every opportunity for professional development, but too many colleges fail to provide cover or release staff so they can keep their skills up to date. Governors must press for this to be standard practice”.
“Motivating and recruiting the right staff and maintaining the colleges reputation are also important. But one hundred and six colleges have still not implemented the national agreement to shorten pay scales and move staff towards pay parity with schoolteachers. Governors must get this moving.”
Mr Taubman noted: “Governors should also publicly condemn false claims by some employers and their organisations that standards are low in further education. Staff expect staff governors to fight their corner and bring attention to the many achievements in colleges”.
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