No gain without someone's pain

11th April 1997 at 01:00
It is to be expected that the principal of Stockport College, who has enjoyed above-average funding of around 30 per cent per year since incorporation, should seek to defend such inherited resource advantage ("Convergence plan 'unthinkable'", TES, April 4). But for him to do so by making pejorative statements against those who are paying for his advantage is deeply disappointing.

The plain fact is that the excess funding received by Stockport College is a subsidy paid for by persistently inadequate allocations to below median colleges. It is perverse that a request for equity funding, after more than four years of tolerance and understanding by relatively-deprived colleges, should be branded as "utterly selfish".

Many high ALF (average level of funding) colleges have threatened disaster and dire consequences if their privileged positions are removed, and have sought to cloud the issue by blaming the funding methodology, the Government, social conditions and special circumstances. But for every high ALF college which might advance such spurious arguments, there is a low-ALF neighbour concentrating on the cost-effective management strategies necessary to live within modest means. There is no good reason why high-ALF colleges cannot be similarly successful. Indeed their additional funding since incorporation has provided greater opportunity for adjustment.

Mr Evans accuses me of trying to divide the sector. The opposite is true. Equity funding is the essential foundation for the unity which the sector needs in the battle for fair treatment vis-a-vis schools. There is nothing more divisive than the continuing inherited funding advantage of high-ALF colleges being used to the competitive disadvantage of low-funded neighbours. Mr Evans should try to understand the viewpoint of the have-nots of the sector, who are asking for no more than equal funding for comparable tasks. This is a reasonable and overdue expectation for students and staff.

The longer the FEFC allows unequal funding to continue, the greater the risk that the Treasury will conclude that the correct level of funding for FE is Pounds 16 per unit or less, rather than the Pounds 23 which Stockport and others receive.

ANDREW MIDDLETON Principal Stamford College

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