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UNISON Add Their Voice to FE College Pay Demands

UNISON, the public service union, has joined NATFHE, the college lecturers” union and the Association of Colleges (AoC) in drawing attention to funding cuts damaging skills work, it emerged yesterday.

The oft ““ mentioned funding crisis that FE faces is in stark contrast with the aims set out in the governments own learning and skills agenda, UNISON said. Further education colleges across the country face a cut of up to 700,000 adult learning places by 2007-08. And in a further blow to adult learning, the Government announced on the 21st of October that it intends to see college fees for adults to rise by at least 60% for those courses outside its own priority targets.

The Petition

The petition, which was delivered to Downing Street for the attention of the Government (specifically the third term Prime Minister, Tony Blair) on Tuesday, was led by the Association of Colleges (AoC). They are using this opportunity to highlight the problems with current college funding arrangements, which mean that some 700,000 16-19-year-old college students receive an average of £400 less funding a year each than their school counterparts.

The figures make worrying reading. More than twice as many 16-18-year-olds study in colleges than schools – 701,000 in FE colleges or sixth form colleges compared with just 345,000 in schools (for the years 2003 / 2004). The growth of studying in FE is not restricted to post 16 education; 100,000 14-16-year-olds study in FE (during the same period of 2003 / 2004) which is expected to rise to 250,000 by 2008. The FE colleges enjoy great success rates and participation; FE institutions have a 72% pass rate, whereas if schools were measured in a similar way their pass rate would be 50%.

All areas of education and training have seen great success in FE colleges. Colleges are responsible for 90% of the adults who gain basic skills qualifications, and for half of all Level 3 qualifications in the workforce. More than 40% of those entering higher education go through FE colleges (including Kat Fletcher, the current President of the National Union of Students (NUS)), and colleges see more than three million adult learners through their doors each year.

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UNISON Cite “Savage Cuts”

Christina McAnea, head of UNISON Education Services, said: “These savage cuts flies in the face of the governments learning and skills agenda. Further Education and Sixth Form colleges are essential to deliver the governments agenda for improving the skills of the workforce. To make this happen there needs to be a substantial investment in the infrastructure and resources and not least to ensure decent pay levels for all staff including lecturers, support and other professional staff.

“Last year redundancies in the sector were 16% and are set to soar this year.”, she continued. “How can the Government hope to deliver their strategies on 14 ““ 19 year olds and on vocational education without fair funding for the FE sector? Evidence shows that the funding gap is even larger than previously acknowledged and illustrates the true extent of the inequity between college and school sixth form funding. It is indefensible that the two-thirds of young learners who study in colleges are being short-changed by an average of £400 a year.”

Jethro Marsh

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