Senior figures from across the further education sector have united to urge the chancellor for more funding for the sector.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, and Shakira Martin, president of the NUS students' union, are among the signatories of the open letter to chancellor Philip Hammond.
The 10 signatories say successive funding cuts have weakened the nation's skills infrastructure, and reduced the availability of learning opportunities for young people and adults.
“While the government has made welcome commitments to expanding technical education and apprenticeships, other areas of learning – many of which support the most vulnerable in our society - have been scaled back,” they explain, adding: “Over 1 million adult learners have been lost from further education, and thousands of talented staff have left the sector as their jobs have been cut and their pay and conditions eroded.”
Investment in technical learning not sufficient
The letter goes on to say that investment in technical learning alone is “not sufficient to reverse the impact of these cuts or to meet the country’s skills needs”. It says many people require different, flexible educational opportunities to support their progression from school into higher level learning or employment, build confidence and resilience, develop basic skills or return to education in later life.
“Unless we ensure that further education is well placed – and funded – to meet these different needs, too many people will remain unable to access the qualifications and jobs which support higher productivity and economic growth," the sector leaders say.
“That’s why we, on behalf of staff, students, education leaders and providers, are asking you to pledge additional investment for further education in your budget on 22 November, to support more and better learning opportunities for young people and adults. There are few spending commitments which could have greater transformative potential – both for individuals and our economy.”
- Sally Hunt, general secretary, University and College Union
- Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison
- David Hughes, chief executive, Association of Colleges
- Shakira Martin, president, NUS students' union
- Geoff Barton, general secretary, Association of School and College Leaders
- Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, joint general secretaries, NEU teaching union
- Sue Pember, director of policy, Holex
- Tim Ward, chief executive officer, Third Sector National Learning Alliance
- Stephen Evans, chief executive, Learning and Work Institute
- Deborah Lawson, general secretary, Voice