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Wider financial issues faced by colleges
2:14pm Monday 10th February 2014 in Your Views
I was disappointed to read the article in the Guardian (February 6) in relation to "financial problems" at Waltham Forest College.
The article in no way tackled the wider financial issues being faced not just by our college, but by each and every one of the 218 general further education colleges in England as a result of Government funding cuts.
As recently as December 2013 the Government announced its decision to cut funding rates from this September by 17.5% for 18 year-olds in full-time education. We believe this will disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged students, many of whom are served by large, urban further education colleges like our own.
It has been estimated that the impact on colleges is more than seven times greater than the impact on school sixth forms. Although these factors have been drawn to the attention of the Government – MPs called for a special debate on 28 January – it seems that the responsible Minister is not prepared on this occasion to change his mind.
Colleges are facing the brunt of Government cuts to the education budget, while schools and universities appear to be relatively unscathed. Of course these institutions also play an important role and it is understood that overall public spending is being reduced but within the education budget as a whole should it be to the detriment of colleges?
This is happening at a time when I believe we should be promoting vocational education to give our young people the skills they need to contribute to economic growth.
Young people and adults who study catering, automobile engineering, health & social care, construction and hairdressing need to be valued as highly as those who study ancient history at university. They are in many other countries such as Germany, China and Australia that are our economic competitors.
Our College is having to work extremely hard to mitigate the consequences of Government policy, and we are doing our utmost to maintain all courses for which there is a demand. We are proud that so many students from across London and beyond choose to attend Waltham Forest College. They recognise the great value of vocational courses so as to prepare for employment and career progression. It is gratifying that there are so many success stories from our former students who keep in touch.
We are looking at all aspects of our business to see where savings can be made, and we are confident we can make the required savings without reducing the overall number of courses or teaching staff.
I very much hope that the Guardian Series will highlight these issues so as to increase awareness across our community of the impact on colleges of funding decisions on the part of Government which in turn will give readers an understanding of the context in which our local College operates.
Robin Jones, principal and chief executive, Waltham Forest College
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