College leaders want to boost staff pay, but do not have the resources do to so, the incoming president of the Association of Colleges (AoC) has said.
Steve Frampton, who has just retired after 13 years as principal of Portsmouth College, said principals wanted to increase teachers’ pay in colleges because “we realise how hard staff work”, but were hamstrung by a lack of funding from the government.
Through its annual survey, the AoC asked college leaders to name their three biggest concerns. The AoC survey, in partnership with Tes, was completed by leaders from 90 colleges – a third of the total in England.
'More colleagues under pressure than I have ever seen'
The restrictiveness of funding rules was the largest area of concern, alongside the level of staff pay. Other worries included a lack of capital funding and the pressures created by the government’s GCSE resit policy.
Mr Frampton said the challenges had never been greater. “The decline in funding, the level of change and the pressure has never been greater. I see more of my principal colleagues under pressure than I have ever seen.”
He added: “I am surprised by the concerns over funding rules not being even higher. There are not just tight restrictions, there is an overall lack of core funding.
Funding rates frozen for four years
National funding rates have been frozen since 2014, at £4,000 for 16- and 17-year-olds, and £3,300 for 18-year-olds. Non-apprenticeship college adult education funding dropped by 45 per cent, from £1,585 million in 2009-10 to £889 million in 2016-17. College capital expenditure has also reached a 20-year low.
Colleges are even finding it difficult to access the funding that supposedly has been made available. In 2016, rules were brought in that restricted the types of students, courses and activity that could be funded. Since then tens of millions of pounds in the adult education budget are believed to have gone unspent.
Also linked are the pressures created by GCSE resits and the recruitment and retention of staff – which are other areas of significant concern for leaders, according to the AoC/Tes survey.
“Core funding is what we need to get some movement on, otherwise there will be real challenges around some of these other issues,” Mr Frampton said.
Base rate 'protected'
A DfE spokesperson said the FE sector is a hugely important part the education system.
They added: “We have protected the base rate of funding for all 16- to 19-year-old students until 2020 and alongside this are providing an additional £20 million over the next two years to prepare for the introduction of T levels.”
The spokesperson also said the department is spending £50 million on improving maths teaching, £4.5 million a year for professional development for English and maths teachers, and £15 million to help underperforming colleges.