I was proud to be one of upwards of 220 college principals from across the country who jointly wrote to the Secretary of State for Education and the Chancellor about further education funding. As the Chancellor is himself a former FE student we’re hopeful our pleas won’t fall on deaf ears.
This week is #LoveOurColleges week and I would encourage everyone to make use of the hashtag on social media as much as possible to raise awareness of the problems the sector is facing, but also of the great successes it achieves on a daily basis.
The signatories thanked ministers for the £400 million pound spending boost the government has promised and see it as a solid first step towards rebuilding FE’s finances after a decade of very damaging cuts. We didn’t get a direct mention in the Queen’s Speech, although her Majesty did say, “My Ministers will ensure that all young people have access to an excellent education, unlocking their full potential and preparing them for the world of work.”
And that’s us really. That’s what FE is for. To provide an excellent education, as worthwhile and inspiring and challenging and thought-provoking as anything to be found anywhere in the world is something to which we already aspire. Unlocking student potential is in our DNA and everything we do is geared up to making our students absolutely ready for the workplace, which is why employers often say they find young people coming from FE more work ready than their colleagues who’ve been to university.
The £400 million already suggested is specifically for 16-18 year olds, but it’s really important we get some more money for over 18s too. As our letter says, “That would deliver the fastest and most effective means of promoting genuine social mobility, economic growth and improved productivity, for those individuals, employers and communities which might otherwise be left behind.”
Making a success of education is not just about funding. It’s about the right curricula in courses, which is why we put so much effort into getting employer input into everything we do. It’s about having great staff who are passionate about their subjects, who are always up-to-date with their industries and who take personal pride in helping their charges become the best that they can be. However, to do these things without the necessary monies isn’t possible, and I would urge the keepers of the public purse to think of FE not as a cost but as an investment; an investment in our futures, in national competitiveness, in closing the skills gaps from which our economy suffers and in every individual who comes through our doors hopeful of a brighter future where they can contribute to society and pay the taxes to ensure others will receive the same opportunities.
Julie Mills OBE, Group Principal & CEO MK College