Sixth-form college staff strike over pay and conditions

College staff will march to the Department for Education to hand Boris Johnson an invoice for post-16 funding

Kate Parker

23 sixth form colleges go on strike over FE funding

Staff from 23 sixth-form colleges across England are going on strike today over pay and working conditions. 

The NEU teaching union says its members are taking action against secretary of state Gavin Williamson "to secure the funding needed to sustain fair pay, conditions and employment including reversing job losses, class size increases and cuts to teaching time and curriculum provision".

Staff will gather in Central London before marching to the Department for Education's Sanctuary Buildings to present an outstanding invoice which the union says is needed for the post-16 sector, not covered by prime minister Boris Johnson’s promises

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Two more colleges – Gateway Sixth Form College, Leicester and WQE and Regent College Group, Leicester – also passed the minimum 50 per cent threshold for strike action, but are on half term. They are not, therefore, technically on strike, but have been invited to attend the rally. 

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Our sixth-form colleges and the staff who work in them have been hung out to dry by this government. Sixth-form colleges have always been a beacon of quality, but funding cuts have had a savage impact on pay, conditions and jobs and have driven far too many colleges towards merger or closure. Strike action is always a last option but our members believe that it is necessary in order to solve our dispute and help save the sector.”

The NEU says that, “if necessary”, further strikes are planned for 5 November and 20 November.

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “It is important to note that this strike action is not targeted at the colleges. It is part of the National Education Union’s wider strategy to put pressure on the government and make the case for improved funding for 16- to 19-year-olds.

“The NEU is a key partner in the Raise the Rate campaign and although sixth-form college principals are equally committed to securing an increase in funding, they do not support this industrial action.”

Education minister Michelle Donelan said: “It is very disappointing that the National Education Union (NEU) has decided to take strike action in sixth form colleges and 16-19 academies. With the NEU only gaining threshold support in 25 out of 87 colleges where they balloted for strikes, it is clear that this strike does not have the wholehearted support of union members.

“The decision to strike is especially discouraging given that we have committed to increasing 16-19 funding in the 2020-21 academic year by £400 million - the biggest injection of new money in a single year since 2010. This is in addition to funding the additional costs of pension schemes in 2020-21.

“We are committed to an ongoing dialogue with the NEU and I have already met with the joint general secretaries to discuss how we can avoid disruptive strike action in the future.”

Sixth-form colleges on strike

  • Bilborough College, Nottingham

  • Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College, Brighton

  • Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College, Stockport 

  • City & Islington Sixth Form College, London

  • Esher College, Surrey

  • Hereford Sixth Form College, Hereford

  • Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

  • King Edward VI College, Stourbridge

  • Long Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

  • Longley Park Sixth Form College, Sheffield

  • Newham Sixth Form College, Newham

  • Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College, Leeds

  • Priestley College, Warrington

  • Reigate College, Surrey

  • Richard Huish College, Taunton

  • Shrewsbury Colleges Group, Shrewsbury

  • Sir George Monoux College, Walthamstow

  • St Brendan's Sixth Form College, Bristol

  • St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College, Clapham

  • St John Rigby RC Sixth Form College, Wigan

  • The Brooke House Sixth Form College, Hackney

  • The Sixth Form College, Solihull

  • Varndean College, Brighton

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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