A petition opposing cuts to the adult skills budget, which has been signed by more than 42,000 people, was today handed in to 10 Downing Street.
Leading figures from the sector, including Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges; Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU); and David Hughes, chief executive of adult learning body Niace, gathered at the official residence of prime minister David Cameron to hand over the petition.
They were joined by Mark Baker, president of the ATL teaching union; Megan Dunn, president of the National Union of Students; and Christine Lewis, lead on FE and school meals at public sector union Unison.
Earlier this month, many of the bodies represented today also took part in a lobby of Parliament.
Funding for adult education in colleges has already been slashed by 24 per cent for 2015-16, and the Treasury has announced that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will have to make further savings of £450 million.
Speaking today, Mr Hughes said: “Like those thousands [who signed the petition], I am appalled at the prospects of even further cuts to lifelong learning, because every cut means more opportunities lost for people to enhance their life chances, support their family and community and to support a more productive economy.
“Further education provides so much to support this government's ambitions for a more productive country which supports social mobility. A healthy and vibrant FE sector with proper investment is vital if the government is to hit its manifesto commitments, including 3 million apprenticeships, halving the disability employment gap and reducing immigration.”
Ms Hunt said the support for the petition demonstrated “how much people value adult learning in the UK”.
"It is crucial for people’s life chances and has tangible social and economic benefits for both individuals and the taxpayer.
“Today, we are sending a clear message to government that these damaging funding cuts need to be halted, and that proper investment in lifelong learning must be a priority for the future,” she added.
A report by Professor Alison Wolf – who carried out a review of vocational education for the government in 2011 – published earlier this week warns that FE could “vanish into history” because the current funding system is “destroying” the sector.