In an unprecedented move all 16 further education college principals in the North-East have united to oppose a 24 per cent cut in funding for adult learning announced by the Government.
They fear that thousands of people could lose the chance of retraining for new jobs because of deep cuts by the Skills Funding Agency, part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The principals believe the £460m reduction, which follows five years of funding cuts for the further education sector, will result in many adult education courses being removed.
They will include employability programmes that the principals say are crucial in enabling unemployed adults to access the labour market and in tackling social and economic exclusion.
Vocational courses that develop the practical skills demanded by employers will also be affected, in sectors such as engineering, manufacturing, health and social care, and construction.
To illustrate the scale of the cuts East Durham College will lose £805,000 from its adult learning budget for next year while Darlington College will lose £755,000 and Bishop Auckland College will lose £650,000.
This comes at a time when the proportion of over-50s in the workforce is set to rise to a third of the workforce by 2020 (from 27 per cent at the moment) and 50 per cent of workers aged over 55 are proposing to work beyond the state pension age.
The principals have also written to MPs asking for questions to be tabled in Parliament and signed a nationwide petition led by the University and College Union (UCU) which has thousands of signatories.
The principals are also asking students and the business community to support the campaign.
The North-East FE colleges involved in the campaign are: Bishop Auckland College; City of Sunderland College; Cleveland College of Art and Design; Darlington College; Derwentside College; East Durham College; Gateshead College; Hartlepool College of Further Education; Middlesbrough College; New College Durham; Newcastle College; Northumberland College; Redcar and Cleveland College; South Tyneside College; Stockton Riverside College and Tyne Metropolitan College.
Natalie Davison, Principal of Bishop Auckland College, said:
“This will have a devastating impact on the communities we serve. It will stop unemployed people being able to access training to help them secure work, and hamper businesses wanting to improve the skills of their workforce in order to enable growth.”
Kate Roe, principal of Darlington College, said:
“At a time when we need to get more people of all ages into employment and help more people to access new training or improve their skills, we should not be cutting funding for adult skills.As a college we anticipated this 24 per cent cut and planned accordingly and we still offer a wealth of courses for adults. Even so, a reduction in funding of this size in courses across the Tees Valley will impact on both individuals and employers.”
They are being supported by the Association of Colleges, whose chief executive Martin Doel said:
“We’re living in an ever-changing society in which people do not keep to the same career path for their whole lives. These people need the options of returning to education or undertaking training.”
A BIS spokesperson said:
“We fully recognise the important role further education plays in getting people the skills they need to get on. That’s why we’ve committed more than £3.9 billion in 2015-16 to adult learning and further education.
“While total funding has been reduced, priority has been given the areas where the most impact can be made – apprenticeships, traineeships and support with English and maths.
“Many colleges and training organisations have responded well to the need to find other income streams for skills provision and it is this approach that will help them succeed.”
Last month Stockton-on-Tees based car parts manufacturer Nifco announced a £50m contract with Ford which has secured 350 jobs.
But engineering general manager Andy Dunn said:
“As a major automotive employer we are extremely disappointed to learn that there will be a 24 per cent cut in the funding of adult skills training in 2015-16.”
Source – Northern Echo, 24 Mar 2015
UP TO 350 council jobs are under threat as a local authority looks to make £22m of savings.
South Tyneside Council has made the announcement as officials look to begin formal discussions with the trade unions.
However, while the council say up to 350 jobs could be lost the final figure will not be known until later in the budgeting process.
The council is now informing the government of the number of jobs that could be affected and is in the process of submitting a HR1 form to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to enable consultations to take place with staff and trade unions over any potential redundancies.
The £22m of savings is in addition to over £100m that it has saved over the past four years.
Coun Ed Malcolm, lead member for resources and innovation said: “Let me start off by emphasising that we will do everything we can do to reduce the 350 figure and wherever possible avoid compulsory redundancies. We appreciate this is a tough time for our staff and we will work with them and the Trade Unions to lessen the impact wherever we can.
“The HR1 form is a legal requirement and a formal process we must undertake. Our estimate is that up to 350 council jobs could be affected in the budget-setting process and we have now informed the Government of that figure.
“We are still working on our budget for next year and we do not relish having to put a figure on the potential number of jobs that might be affected relatively early in our budget planning process. As everyone knows we continue to be subjected to unprecedented Government cuts and are doing all we can to minimise the impact on frontline services.
“We are not yet in a position to confirm a definite number, as this is obviously dependent on the decisions made by Councillors around the budget.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 08 Aug 2014
Universities and colleges in the North East could be stripped of millions of pounds in funding used to give students from poorer backgrounds a fairer chance of getting a degree.
The cash is at risk because the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for higher education, needs to make savings of £1.4bn.
Teesside University currently receives £5.9m each year, the University of Northumbria at Newcastle receives £3.5m, University of Sunderland receives £3.3m, University of Newcastle upon Tyne receives £1.1m, University of Durham receives £660,000, Newcastle College receives £959,00 and New College Durham receives £637,000.
The money, known as Student Opportunity funding, is allocated to universities and higher education colleges which succeed in attracting students from neighbourhoods where few people have traditionally taken part in higher education.
It also goes to institutions which succeed in retaining students who would statistically be more likely to drop out, and to those that recruit students with disabilities.
Leaked documents have revealed that the Department for Business is looking for ways to save £570m this year and a further £860m after the election.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is reported to be pushing for Student Opportunity funding to be abolished, while Business Secretary Vince Cable and Higher Education Minister David Willets are lobbying to keep it.
Asked to comment on the reports, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said in a statement: “The Department is going through the process of allocating budgets for 2014-15 and 2015-16 and will set out plans in the usual way.”
Prof Peter Fidler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, was one of nine university leaders across the country to write a public letter warning: “The removal of this fund will damage economic growth and have a wider impact on sectors beyond higher education.”
The letter said that axing the fund “suggests that the Government is willing to abandon the cause of social mobility in higher education.”
The future of the fund was raised in the House of Commons by Labour’s Shadow Higher Education Minister Liam Byrne as MPs discussed funding for engineering students. He said: “On top of the huge cuts for educating 18-year-olds in college, we now hear rumours that the student opportunity fund that helps poorer future engineers will be completely axed.
“Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to promise the House that he will not sacrifice social mobility to pay for the chaos in his Department’s budget?”
In reply, Business Secretary Vince Cable highlighted £400m in funding for science, technology, engineering and maths courses – but did not comment on the future of the Student Opportunity Fund.
The National Union of Students has launched a campaign to preserve the funding.
Toni Pearce, NUS president, said: “Cutting the Student Opportunity Fund is an absolute disgrace and, in the wake of cuts to the National Scholarship Programme, looks like the Government is backtracking on its commitment to support social mobility in favour of balancing the books on the backs of the poor.”
Mr Byrne said: “The Department for Business budget is a complete mess because high paying students at private colleges got access to the state student loan system. Now it looks like help for poorer students will be axed to pay for it.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 25 Jan 2014