From education to employment

Politicians Begin Electoral Campaign with AoC Questions In Mind

The Association of Colleges” campaign on the equalization of funding between sixth forms within schools and colleges, which amounts to a 10% disparity in funding, or almost £500,000 each year, was ringing in the political parties” ears as Tony Blair dissolved parliament for the forthcoming election on May 5th. With this election due to be more hotly contested than its” predecessor in 2001, education has been targeted by both the Government and its” political opponents as a key issue around which voters may cast their ballots.

One of the most pressing issues in Further Education is this funding issue, which has yet to be resolved adequately. As Dave Prentiss, General Secretary of UNISON, commented, “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? There needs to be 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.”

Following the lobbying of Parliament by representatives from a broad spectrum of affected parties, including employers and education experts, the TUC, the Association of Learning Providers and even the charity Help the Aged, a number of questions were asked in the House as to the intentions of those creating the policies towards Further Education. With almost twice as many 16 ““ 18 year olds now attending sixth form colleges rather than sixth forms within a secondary school, the current funding shortfall for the former is a pressing concern which politicians will need to address.


With the party manifestos being published this week, it will be easier to determine their intentions towards this issue. The Conservatives have already highlighted certain reforms to the Further Education system that they intend to carry through. There are pledges to create a new network of “Super Colleges”, to abolish the Learning and Skills Council and to remove much of the direct oversight of the running of colleges. Connexions, the advice service, will be scrapped and replaced with a new service. It is unclear how this might affect the funding deficit currently being highlighted by the Association of Learning Providers, with the demands being made on apprenticeship and pre ““ apprenticeship programmes set to increase. The manifesto then goes on to state that the voluntary and business sectors will be expected to take much of the responsibility and thus funding formerly within the remit of Connexions.

Funding Crisis

The Association of Colleges will not allow themselves to be sidetracked in the run ““ up to May 5th. They are currently petitioning every prospective Parliamentary candidate to ask that they make public their views on the 16 ““ 19 funding gap and the potential cuts in funding for adult learning, by explaining exactly what effect this will have on their potential constituents. They are also organizing their own petition from their website and encouraging colleges to participate through that means. In the frantic world of campaigning and pledges that characterize the frenzied political activity that inevitably precedes an election, this post ““ lobbying activity is intended to keep the funding crisis in Further Education on the agenda of the people’s representatives at the time when they are most directly accountable.

Jethro Marsh

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