Survey by UNISON and UCU shows education cuts have devastating impact on staff and learners

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Government education cuts are depriving many young people and adults of the chance to contribute fully to society, UNISON has warned.

A new freedom of information survey, sent by UNISON to all of the 248 further education colleges in England, has revealed the devastating impact government funding cuts are having on learners and staff, with the situation set only to get worse.

The survey results demonstrate how the cuts are limiting access to further education, through course closures, reductions in admissions and job cuts.

More than 60% of respondents said they had closed courses that ranged from aerospace engineering and construction, through to A-levels and part-time adult learning. Colleges gave funding cuts and changes to funding eligibility rules as the main reasons for cutting courses.

In addition, despite record youth unemployment figures, the survey also reveals a drop in enrolment figures for this academic year – with nearly 70% of respondents reporting a fall. This was blamed primarily on the loss of the education maintenance allowance.

Jon Richards, UNISON national secretary for education & children’s services, said: “In these tough times, the need for education and training has never been greater, yet our survey has highlighted the devastating impact government funding cuts are having on our further education college staff and students.

“In the first year of this Tory-led coalition government, we saw nearly 6,000 redundancies in colleges. This – teamed with more than 60% of colleges cutting courses, and nearly 70% reporting a fall in admissions in this last academic year – all paints a very grim picture for our further education services.

“These cuts are depriving too many young people of the chance to contribute to and take part in society. We know that many employers are looking for the very skills that FE colleges are able to provide. If the government does not stop this attack on education services, then we are looking at losing a generation to hopelessness and unemployment.”

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “If this trend of cutting continues quality will inevitably suffer. The further education sector simply cannot continue to be asked to do more for less. Investment in our colleges is essential if we are to kick-start growth in economy. At a time when other countries are investing in producing more highly-skilled workers we cannot afford a repeat of these large-scale course closures and redundancies.

“We are losing the very people we need to up-skill our workforce and train the next generation. We fear the situation could get worse with the introduction of loans for older learners and the government must ensure that participation does not fall any further.”

Shadow minister for further education Gordon Marsden said: “This survey provides detailed evidence of just how the Tory-led government’s cuts in further education funding are blighting the life chances of hundreds of thousands of young and adult learners.

“They are being prevented from getting new skills and jobs to kick start our economy and with the government now scrapping direct financial support for many adult learners in favour of a debt producing loans system, many of them could drop out. That would make life for colleges and those who work in them even tougher.”


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