FE feels the #loveourcolleges

19th October 2018, 12:00am
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FE feels the #loveourcolleges

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/fe-feels-loveourcolleges

It's been a good-news week for the sector, for once.

Students, teachers and leaders have taken to social media, to the airwaves and to the streets to highlight the vital work our country's colleges do. And, in the process, pointing out how sorely underfunded that work has been.

True, apprenticeships and T levels featured prominently in chancellor Philip Hammond's Conservative Party conference speech, and education secretary Damian Hinds has repeatedly stated his desire for an end to technical education being a second rate alternative to its academic counterpart.

But colleges can't fund their work on fine words. So, this Colleges Week, the sector has been doing its best to showcase its talents, but making sure to couch those successes with warnings that a lack of cash makes such successes less likely in the future.

And it's not just further education that would suffer if a new tranch of funding is not forthcoming.

Over half of small to medium-sized businesses across the UK warn that the country risks being "left behind" if the government doesn't address skills gaps through education, according to new research by the Association of Colleges.

And, with Brexit just around the corner (barring any last-minute twists in the European tale, of course), these skills gaps become ever-more pressing to fill.

The stats from the AoC are sobering: the average college in England has had to cut over 15 courses in the past five years specifically due to lack of funding, and teaching hours have been cut by almost 9 hours per week.

And the only part of the education budget to have had year-on-year cuts since 2010 is further education.

You just need to look at #loveourcolleges on Twitter to see the brilliant work colleges are doing; for individuals, for communities and for the country. It's clear that those involved with the sector know its worth.

Isn't it time our politicians felt the love, too? Not in grand speeches - we've had enough of those. But in real, meaningful action and funding that ensures that Colleges Week in years to come can be a true celebration, and not a desperate plea to be heard and saved.

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