A bitter blow, but FE too busy for tantrums

20th November 2009 at 00:00
Comment: Alan Thomson

This week saw FE leaders have a moment not dissimilar to the experience of finding out that you have substantially less money in the bank than you thought, and there's still a fortnight until pay day.

First there is denial. Then there is the slow dawning that actually it may be true, followed by a period of resignation that can involve expletives.

The 6 per cent cut to Train to Gain funding rates for next year would seem to fall into that category. The sector was braced for a cut, but not, it appears, the one that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has planned.

The additional 3 per cent cut - above and beyond the 3 per cent to be trimmed from all programmes next year - was anticipated by the sector as a 3 per cent real-terms rise that they had expected for 201011, but that they realised would not be forthcoming in today's climate.

The additional 3 per cent cut as defined by the department is a reduction on current funding rates. So it is not extra money that the sector will not now get, but money that it has now that will not be available to it next year.

By the sector's reckoning, then, it may be looking at what is effectively a 9 per cent cut next year for Train to Gain.

If so, it is a bitter blow, and a tough call from the Government, which continues to demand the earth from a further education system that already delivers so much with so little.

Capital funding fallout, Train to Gain problems, machinery-of-government changes, budget cuts, professionalisation issues, Framework for Excellence, a new inspection regime, a possible change of government and policy - and all that to deal with before we get to the day-to-day challenges faced by providers and their staff.

Yet the resilience of providers in the face of such a sustained assault on virtually every part of the FE system is remarkable. College bosses are still talking about the tremendous opportunities over the coming period. And, colleges being colleges, these opportunities will not go begging.

So, as the dust settles on this year's Association of Colleges conference, FE Focus takes its proverbial hat off to further education staff at every level, who are too busy making the best of whatever is thrown at them to have time for anything approaching a tantrum, even when the circumstances may justify one.


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