“We literally have no money to spare and every change we make means taking money out of something else,” explains the principal of a college rated “satisfactory” for its financial health.
This means “there is no room to take risks or innovate; it’s a hand-to-mouth existence,” according to the college leader, who asked not to be named.
“There is definitely an acute pressure on funding for FE colleges. The sector is the least well-understood part of the education system and is definitely the worst funded.
“The funding streams attached to each activity [offered by the college] are different and some are very complex, which is a risk in itself,” he continues. “In addition, they have all been reformed or reduced in one way or another.
“Either the growth in colleges experiencing difficulties is just down to poor management – in which case, why is the overall level of financial health declining? – or there is something wrong with the system.
“All colleges are walking a tightrope and any college that makes a mistake, or has intense local competition or building work to do, is likely to fall off.
“Most principals I know find the job impossible. We need to remember that FE is supposed to be at the centre of post-Brexit plans for a skills and productivity revolution, but it is hard to take that seriously when it is funded so terribly badly.”