When you ask college leaders about their biggest concerns, while GCSE resits, Brexit and other things may play on their mind, it almost always eventually comes down to one single issue: funding.
It is also an issue that brings together unions, students and college management, with everyone agreeing that – to ensure colleges can continue to deliver opportunities for students and apprentices – more funding is required.
Senior figures from across the further education sector recently wrote an open letter to chancellor Philip Hammond, stressing that cuts had weakened the skills infrastructure and calling for FE to be supported in the spending review.
Parton with her money?
It was also a focus of the Association of Colleges’ annual conference this week. David Walrond, principal of Truro and Penwith College, sets out the cuts learners aged 16 and older have endured.
But none have made their case in as compelling a way as Bedford College’s Ian Pryce. Last week, with the help of some enthusiastic college technicians and his former PA, he recorded a version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, entitled – naturally – Justine.
My colleagues and I have been humming the tune ever since. “We work so hard we hardly sleep, there’s nothing we can do to keep our staff, they’re leaving every week, Justine,” the principal sings.
One can only hope the song has had the same effect on the education secretary. If this doesn’t persuade her FE is worthwhile, nothing will.