From education to employment

U-turn means additional £9m for FE and sixth forms in Wales

Yesterday, the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) reversed FE funding cuts, announcing an additional £8.93 million for FE colleges and sixth forms.

fforwm, which represents all 25 FE colleges and institutions in Wales, had previously warned that cuts meant its members would struggle to keep up with the increased demand for education, post-16 and adult training. Its chief executive, Dr John Graystone, yesterday welcomed the U-turn.

Dr Graystone said: "fforwm is very pleased that the Welsh Assembly Government has listened and responded to repeated calls from fforwm and other organisations for better investment in FE colleges, particularly in this time of economic recession, when demand for education and training is growing. The additional funding will go some way to mitigate the worst effects of increasing costs, and will help colleges to be more responsive to the needs of businesses and their local communities in these difficult times. Colleges remain fully committed to the Welsh Assembly Government’s imaginative initiatives to improve the skills levels of the workforce and support those who have lost their jobs get back into work.

"The Welsh Assembly Government has come a long way from its position in January, when it announced cuts in college funding and later insisted that there could be no change to college allocations. The additional funding that will now be made available to the fourteen colleges who were facing punitive cuts comes as welcome relief.

"fforwm would like to thank the Assembly Members from all parties who have supported colleges in calling on the Welsh Assembly Government to substantially increase its investment in FE colleges. Colleges have been very encouraged by the very strong levels of support demonstrated by politicians based both in Cardiff and London over recent months."

In January 2009, the WAG announced its funding allocation to sixth forms and colleges. Fourteen colleges received cuts totalling over £7m, with 11 colleges receiving an overall increase of around £4m – a net decrease of just over £3m.

After announcing the cuts, the WAG made it clear that no changes were to be made to these figures.

However, strong protests in Cardiff and London from staff, students, unions, Assembly members, along with calls from fforwm, have led to yesterday’s decision to restore funds.

Announcing the extra funding, Deputy Minister for Skills John Griffiths said: "We have listened to the concerns of the sector and the issues they face in light of the recession. The government has responded swiftly and positively and remains committed to supporting FE so that they can deliver the necessary training in readiness for the upturn when it comes."

fforwm had warned that another 450 redundancies were set to come on top of the 300 that were already made in the last financial year because of the budget constraints.

Even with the revised funding allocations, colleges still face the cost of pay increases and other inflationary expenditure. With a budget rise of 0%, many are wondering where this will leave them in 2009-2010.

"This money is too little too late to prevent large numbers of job cuts and the slashing of courses," says Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Jenny Randerson AM

Solange Berchemin

(Pictured: Dr John Graystone, chief executive of fforwm)


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