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Principals urged to speak up over cuts

Every principal is to be issued with a briefing pack advising them how to deal with the expected public backlash against cuts in adult education courses during the summer.

The Association of Colleges fears a public outcry when prospective students turn up to enrol for next year, only to find courses have been axed, or fees increased.

Linda Butler, AoC director of communications, believes principals should personally explain to students why the cuts are happening. She said: "The pack is for principals and governors to help them think through how they deal with the backlash from people in the community facing these cuts.

"Principals and chairs of governors will have the packs on their desks by the beginning of next month, giving them plenty of time to absorb them before students turn up for enrolment."

Stories have emerged of principals telling staff they are losing their jobs as a result of the cuts - then expecting the same sacked staff to tell students that their classes have been axed.

"We want principals to go and tell students themselves what is going on," said Ms Butler.

"They must make it clear that they are on the side of the students, and must make sure that responsibility for the cuts is placed where it belongs.

Colleges should not take the blame for something that is not their fault.

"The issue is about making the sector's voice heard. It is no good principals keeping their heads under the parapet and hoping everything will be OK."

The cuts in adult courses have already generated more than 700 stories in local, regional and national newspapers, she added.

Norwich City college in Norfolk is issuing postcards to all its adult students advising them to send them on to Education Secretary Ruth Kelly protesting about the funding cuts.

Burnley college, where 2,000 adult places are being axed, has prepared leaflets detailing the cuts and why they are taking place.

John Smith, principal at Burnley, said: "We will tell them the cuts have nothing to do with Burnley college but are fully in line with Government choices.

"I am trying to get three or four case studies together to bring the issue to life. I have also drafted a letter to our local MP setting out exactly what is happening."

The AoC has collected more than 24,000 signatures to an online petition calling on the Government to close the 16 to 19 funding gap and protect adult learning from fee increases and course closures, which it will present to ministers in November.

Ministers have defended the cuts, stressing that they remain committed to the Government's priority areas, including basic skills, helping adults get level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) qualifications and raising the number of teenagers who stay in education.

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