Gordon Browns 2005 budget has received a mixed reception in the further education world. Whilst the chancellor has announced that he believes 9 out of 10 young people should stay in education or training until the age of 18, he has been criticised for not addressing many of the fears that unions have. Low wages for lecturers remains a contentious issue and the infamous 10% funding gap between colleges and school sixth forms has still not been addressed.
NATFHE, the Further Education lecturers” union, recently warned of imminent lecturer strikes if wages didnt increase, and it appears that the chancellors budget has done little to appease them. “We desperately need extra funding to ensure that colleges get equivalent day-to-day resources as schools. Only then could college lecturers” pay, currently amongst the lowest for teaching across Northern Europe, be increased to match that of schoolteachers. This would enable colleges to effectively prepare the next generation for life and work,” said Paul Mackney, NATFHE General Secretary.
The Association of Colleges has similarly not had its issues addressed satisfactorily and is continuing to press on with its campaign for equal funding. That said, it is not all bad news for the sector. The Chancellor has announced an extra £12 billion for schools and colleges, including £1.5 billion to improve and renovate college buildings. He has also announced funding for a Union Learning Academy in addition to £65 million over the coming year to fund employer training pilots.
As well, the Education Maintenance Allowance has been increased. This measure has met a mixed response, as it has lead to fears that increased demand from 14-19 year old learners might impact unfavourably on adult learners. AoC Chief Executive John Brennan said: “The situation will get increasingly difficult over the next two years as the government tries to shift this new skills strategy. Directly work-related courses are being cut; getting adults back into learning is not a priority now. So opportunities are being squeezed out of the system for adults to get back into education.”
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