FE inequity

26th April 1996 at 01:00
It is surprising that Adrian Perry (Letters, TES, April 5) should declare his opposition to irrational resource allocation, yet then proceed to defend the current system which has maintained widely unequal funding for more than three years of incorporation, and is set to do so for a fourth. It is now time to remove this inequity.

The Further Education Funding Council figures show Mr Perry's college to have the third highest average level of funding (ALF) among nearly 400 general FE, tertiary and sixth-form colleges in England. With an ALF 40 per cent above the sector median and almost 90 per cent above the lowest funded, Lambeth's FEFC revenue funding is exceptionally rather than "typically high".

An allocation mechanism whose foundation is inequality is unlikely to earn respect on grounds of principle or pragmatism. It is neither reasonable nor sensible to inflict injustice on the majority in order to protect the few. Their problems should be identified and tackled directly rather than be disguised, as in the current mechanism.

The FEFC consultation document which led to the current mechanism was titled "Funding Learning", yet the widely varying funding levels have more to do with historical positions of a social and political nature. Funding for the core activities of learning and achievement should indeed be equal in Brixton or Bracknell, but the continuing ALF variations produce gross inequity instead.

Local circumstances, whether of inner-city or rural areas should be identified as separate issues, rather than be obscured within a distorting mechanism. The extent and costs of social disadvantage or rural isolation could then be exposed for what they are rather than be confused with the core learning process. It might then be possible to assign such costs to the other public sector bodies which should be funding these extras rather than colleges taking on social responsibilities from steadily falling funds.

ANDREW MIDDLETON

Stamford College

Drift Road

Stamford

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