Future of FE CollegesThe future of further education colleges is determined by recent government cuts. The government have recently announced that yet again they intend to cut 25% from the adult skills budget, which funds non-academic post-19 education. This comes after an initial cut in 2010 which further education colleges are still recovering from. The situation is becoming so critical for them to recover from that colleges could be a thing of the past by 2020 if cuts continue in this way. There are already one million fewer adults in classrooms and workshops than there were in 2010.

The only thing FE colleges can look forward to at the moment are CUTS, CUTS and more CUTS! FE colleges are crumbling under the pressure of having funding cut dramatically, which in turn has meant they have had to change how they are teaching their classes; for example doubling class sizes meaning redundancies, which in turn has caused quality and grades to drop.

Britain’s supply of skilled workers may “Vanish into history” if looming budget cuts in further education and the unchecked expansion of universities are allowed to continue, according to the architect of the governments vocational education plans. The further education sector that provides the bulk of the UK’s post-secondary training faces possible collapse and the subsequent loss of a valuable skilled workforce. FE colleges are already under budget pressures and face further threat if the government takes resources from the further education budget to fund its plans to expand its apprenticeships.

So how does a college make efficiencies if it has to recruit more students this year to earn the same amount of money as it had last year?

The cuts now mean that many colleges have to exploit their hard working staff in order to function. According to a 2013 University and College Union (UCU) survey, 61% of FE Colleges were employing teaching staff on an hourly paid basis, with no job security and no career progression.

Working within a college can be very demanding, as many teachers who have taught basic skills to a classroom of young adults who have been failed by the school system can verify. Yet with this demanding job the pay can be incredibly low. The system can lead to teachers putting in hours of unpaid work every week, as the work cannot possibly be done in paid time, and everyone knows that! Some teachers when taking all their work and extra commitments into account, could be earning as little as £4 an hour. It is inevitable that this then has a knock on effect on their standard of teaching and morale within the classroom, as they are feeling under valued!

Over the last few years there has been constant changes and a decline in funding, resulting in staff insecurity and job losses. Some smaller colleges are being forced to consider mergers in order to survive such as; Norton Radstock College merging with City of Bath College to be Bath College, this was after Norton Radstock was visited by the FE commissioner after an inadequate Ofsted rating.. Recent announcements of further funding cuts threaten yet again to change the face of FE as we know it. Headlines warn of at least 400,000 people being prevented from accessing adult education. The AoC say that if cuts continue at this rate, by 2020 adult further education will effectively be a thing of the past, there will be an end to courses which help people in their early 20s find a job and an end to GCSE and A Level equivalent professional courses.

The value of further education colleges should not be underestimated. Student success should be celebrated and the dedication of those working in the sector acknowledged. The opportunity for young people and adults from all backgrounds to access the quality and training should not be allowed to become elitist and out of reach.

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