The Colleges are supporting Colleges Week, which takes place from Monday 15 October to Friday 19 October and is part of a UK-wide ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign. The campaign sees colleges across the country hosting events to showcase the vital contributions they make, day in and day out, to the prospects and success of individuals and communities. There is a national lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 17 October.
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is also backing the Colleges’ call for greater funding, recognising the “crucial” work colleges do in delivering vital skills and talent needed by businesses.
The ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign is a partnership between Association of Colleges (AoC), National Union of Students (NUS), Association of College and School Leaders (ASCL), University and Colleges Union (UCU), Unison, GMB, TUC and National Education Union (NEU).
Whether it’s through top-class technical education, basic skills or lifelong learning, colleges help people of all ages and backgrounds to make the most of their talents and ambitions. Rooted in local communities, they are crucial in driving social mobility and providing the skills to boost local and regional economies.
However, there is currently a sharp reduction in education funding, now a drop of around 20%, once a student turns 16 – whether they are in a school sixth form or a college. ‘Love Our Colleges’ is calling on government to increase 16-19 funding by 5% a year for 5 years. It is also asking Department for Education to provide exceptional funding, ring-fenced for teacher pay.
David Walrond, Principal at Truro and Penwith College said: “Our young people are losing out in terms of the investment in their skills compared to other competitor economies and compared with the investment in previous generations. Many young people struggle to understand how older generations would deny them the life-chances they themselves had. Funding cuts have meant the hours of teaching and support and the opportunities available have all been reduced. The crisis now worsens as the huge drop in college funding makes it impossible to recruit and retain enough specialist skills subject staff. You cannot boost skills for productivity without the staff to teach them. We hope that during Colleges Week, more people grasp that, as well the moral and social arguments for funding colleges fairly, there are straightforward economic ones.”
Raoul Humphreys, Principal & Chief Executive of The Cornwall College Group, added: “The Government’s Industrial Strategy highlights the needs to invest in skills for young people and to create highly skilled jobs in every region. This will not happen without a sharp increase in the funding available to teach young people in our colleges. Colleges are catalysts for skills training in our communities.
“The significant fall in FE funding in recent years has sold our young people short, limiting their prospects and ensuring that Colleges are struggling to attract and retain highly skilled teaching staff or to invest in new resources. The improvements in productivity that we all seek will only be achieved by a clear and sustained focus on developing the skills economy; this will not be possible without fair funding for our Colleges.”
Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP, which drives economic growth and job creation in the region, said: “We are pleased to support National Colleges Week and to recognise and endorse the crucial work colleges do in delivering the vital skills and talent that our businesses need to grow and prosper. LEPs are central to determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities that drive inclusive economic growth and job creation, improve infrastructure, raise workforce skills and boost productivity. We have been tasked with delivering the Government’s Industrial Strategy, which aims to build a post-Brexit Britain fit for the future, and investment in skills is a foundation on which that strategy is built.
“We view with increasing concern therefore the disinvestment in education and skills training for both the 16-18 and adult cohorts identified by the Institute or Fiscal Studies and others. Without strong colleges with sustainable funding levels there is a very real risk that the skills delivery necessary to drive our economy now and in the future will be severely compromised, and at a time when there will be a need for much greater self-sufficiency in UK skills. We urge the Government to work with colleges and LEPs to address the issue of long-term underfunding in the FE sector so that together we can deliver the growth aspirations of the Industrial Strategy.”
David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges, said: “Every single day colleges like Truro and Penwith and Cornwall College provide a world-class education and transform the lives of millions of people.
“Colleges Week is an opportunity to celebrate the brilliant things that go on and a chance to showcase the brilliant staff that make it possible. It is simple, if we want a world-class education system then we need to properly invest in it.”