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Basic skills not at risk

Your report last week (FE Focus, April 29) gave an entirely misleading picture of further education funding.

Far from leaving colleges "short-changed", the Learning and Skills Council has increased funding to the FE sector from pound;3.5 billion to pound;4.5bn between 2001 and 2005, an increase of 29 per cent. For 20056, we will be increasing funding by 5 per cent and adding a further pound;170 million to the budget.

Even with this level of increase, there will never be enough to do all that the LSC or the sector would wish to achieve. That is why we have taken a stringent view of all our other budget lines - outside our priorities - to push every penny into mainstream front-line delivery.

Our priorities are 16 to 18-year-olds, apprentices, anyone without basic skills, anyone without a full level 2 qualification and those out of work, and it is in these key areas that we will focus public funds. This means that funding has to be directed towards those activities within colleges which support and sustain the delivery of these key programmes.

Where this creates pressures for colleges, we would expect them to reduce non-essential courses that do not fall in our priority areas or increase fees to individuals with higher-level qualifications and from employers.

The Government's Skills Strategy specifically anticipated that colleges would further increase fee income from these sources.

In our discussions with colleges during 20045 we have sought to focus funding on our priority areas through a consistent framework, taking account of national, regional and local priorities. We have also allocated an extra Pounds 65m, which has gone directly to colleges that delivered growth in our priority areas in 20034. And we are looking hard at those colleges that have under-performed year on year.

Against this background, no college should be cutting back on mainstream basic skills or any of our priority areas. This includes activities related to learners with learning difficulties andor disabilities. Your report also implied that funding for adult and community education is being cut.

This is not the case - in 20056 funding has been kept at the same level as for 20045.

David Russell

National director of resources

Learning and Skills Council

Coventry

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