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Hundreds of colleges make 'unprecedented' call for government to address 'parlous' state of FE

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A letter signed by the chairs of the governing bodies of 130 FE colleges has called on prime minister David Cameron to make no further funding cuts to the FE sector.

The letter urges Mr Cameron to consider the "parlous financial state [of the sector], which has been caused by the impact of an accumulation of funding changes that have uniquely hit colleges". It includes five key recommendations that aim to tackle issues in FE such as cuts to adult funding and competition from academies, free schools and university technical colleges.

The letter urges Mr Cameron to "reconsider the impact of recent and planned changes in the funding of further education colleges in the run-up to the comprehensive spending review in November 2015. We believe that the sector is vital to the government’s economic strategy but unless the issues outlined...are understood and addressed, opportunities for many young people, adults and the nation’s productivity will be significantly damaged, perhaps permanently."

The letter, which has also been sent to business secretary Sajid Javid, was written to "try and make the voice of FE heard". It was drafted in a chat room, according to a senior college official involved in creating the letter.

"What’s key is that there has never been a letter signed by 130 chairs of boards before. I think the word 'unprecedented' is quite apt," the official said. "The FE sector as a whole is really struggling to survive under the past five years of funding cuts and there was a general feeling that the impact of these cuts was not being appreciated by central government because of the impact it was having on local communities. We can’t go on like this."

Earlier this week, shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden warned that the sector could become the government’s "whipping boy" in the review, which will take place on 25 November.

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