East Anglia’s college leaders call for more government support after 30pc funding cut in 10 years

Colleges in Norfolk and Suffolk are calling on the counties' MPs to lobby for more funding for furth

Colleges in Norfolk and Suffolk are calling on the counties' MPs to lobby for more funding for further education during Love Our Colleges week. City College Norwich principal Corrienne Peasgood. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

The leaders of Norfolk and Suffolk's further education colleges have called on their MPs to push for greater funding for the sector in a week-long campaign.

As part of Love Our Colleges week, running from October 15 to 19, senior figures from the New Anglia Colleges Group have asked the counties' MPs to lobby the chancellor for increased investment in further education – which covers post-16 learning – in the upcoming Budget and for more questions on funding for further education to be raised in parliament.

The letter has been signed by principals and governing body leaders from City College Norwich, East Norfolk Sixth Form, the College of West Anglia, Easton and Otley College, West Suffolk College, East Coast College and Suffolk New College.

In it they say that the hours of teaching and support and the choices available to students and the 'enrichment' of their further education experience 'are all affected by a lack of government investment'.

Corrienne Peasgood, City College Norwich principal, said further education (FE) had endured several lean years due to governmental cuts.

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'FE has had a 30pc cut in funding in the last 10 years. Our students have less contact time than at schools, universities or any European country we compete against,' she said.

'We train half the number of adults that they did 10 years ago as a sector, and when you look at employers with their skills needs, with the demographic downturn in 16 to 18-year-olds, employers' skills needs are not going to be met by young people. They have to look at retaining their workforces or training people who are out of work, which is one of the themes of Love Our Colleges week this year.'

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Ms Peasgood said the main aim of the campaign was to raise awareness of the function of FE colleges.

'People who engage with us are well aware of our work, but we are not like a school, which everyone went to, and an awful lot of people who decide on funding went to university, not a further education college. Those two areas start off with an advantage as people know what they do, whereas FE colleges are a bit of a mystery.'

As part of the campaign a march is taking place in London on Wednesday, with representatives from the East Anglian colleges taking part.

'We are letting students down at the point when we should be investing more'

The letter from New Anglia Colleges Group makes a passionate case for more attention and funding for FE colleges.

Here is an excerpt:

'You have seen the news about the need for more investment in education, however, you may not know that, over the last decade, college funding specifically has been cut by around 30pc with students seeing a drop of more than £1,500 in funding when they reach the age of 16 and college teachers earning on average £7,000 less than their peers in schools.

'This means fewer hours of teaching and support for young people when they get to the age of 16 compared with their counterparts in other countries and compared with previous generations. The hours of teaching and support, the choice they have and the enrichment they are offered are all affected by a lack of government investment.

'All colleges in Norfolk and Suffolk have continued to provide exceptional employer focused education options for the region's young people but we have had to make some difficult decisions. We know how important it is to invest in the future of our young people and, currently, they are being let down just at the point where we should be investing in them even more.

'We have been asking the government to invest more in colleges and they have been listening but it has not materialised into action. We know there is a lot of pressure on the public purse but we need to show that people care about supporting and investing in our students.'

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