From education to employment

New Union Highlights Funding Strategy’s Impact on Inclusion

One of the principal tasks for the FE sector, writes Jethro Marsh for FE News, is to offer a viable alternative to conventional education.

The school ““ based and university based programmes are often too inflexible for learners with disabilities to make the most use of them, and traditionally FE has been the sector to offer the training that these forum cannot. The issue being faced by the sector today is one of counting the pennies. According to the latest acronym to appear in FE ““ the University and College Union (UCU) ““ courses across the country are facing closure, leaving thousands of students with learning difficulties and / or disabilities without the opportunity they afforded.

Gateshead College

A case in point is Gateshead College. The college has announced that there will be course closures resulting in anywhere up to 39 redundancies. This, it is claimed, is due to new funding priorities from the Government that call for Colleges to direct their funding more specifically towards 16-19-year-olds, adults taking basic skills and adults taking Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) courses for the first time.

The UCU state that this is not simply a single college concern, and offer a list of other Colleges who have announced redundancies in part because of the change in funding priorities. These are Northumberland College (looking set to lose up to 50 jobs, with the UCU branch in its fifth week of taking selective strike action); Hartlepool College (losing up to 12 jobs); East Durham College (with up to 7 jobs set to go); and Derwentside College (losing up to 3 jobs).

Roger Kline, the head of equality and employment rights at the UCU, has questioned the funding policies of the Government, using the occasion of his visit to Gateshead College to comment on the situation. He fears the impact of the change in priorities will lead to great damage being done to the opportunities that are on offer to students and would similarly have a negative effect on participation rates.

At this specific College action has been taken by what UCU describe as the “outraged” staff. Gateshead College UCU members voted in favour of “action-short-of-a-strike”, and are now operating on a “working to contract” basis. The local authority has managed to offer some last minute funding support for the year 2006/2007; however, this is no more than a temporary patch.

Roger Kline and the Equality Time Bomb

Speaking at the College, Roger Kline said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the new government funding priorities for further education are having a disproportionate impact on some of the most vulnerable sections of the community including those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, as is the case at Gateshead College.”

Mr. Kline went on to explain his doubts, saying: “I question if there has been any audit of the effects of this new national policy on students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. I also question if the government or the LSC are obliging colleges to cut courses for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities to pre-empt new and more stringent legislation on disabilities that is coming into effect this autumn.”

The cutbacks, if indeed they are final and are implemented, will certainly harm participation rates amongst some of the nation’s most excluded citizens. However, the question remains as to whether there is a large enough and coherent enough constituency that can campaign for the public’s and the politicians” attention.

Jethro Marsh

Stay with FE News for the latest in FE!

Related Articles