PORTSMOUTH’S post-16 education leaders are part of a campaign demanding government action to address a huge drop in funding – and say that soon teaching will be affected if things do not change.
Portsmouth College principal Simon Barrable said: ‘We have faced a 22 per cent reduction in funding. This week’s Love Our Colleges’ campaign is all about promoting the fantastic work that colleges do whilst at the same time making the government realise that for provision to be maintained then current funding needs to be addressed.’
Figures released from the Sixth Form Colleges Association stated that in the last academic year per pupil funding for 16 to 18-year-olds was 15 per cent lower than allocated for secondary school children. The report also highlighted that real terms funding for post 16 students is £1,380 less per student than in 2011.
Supporting the campaign is Portsmouth South MP and former college student, Stephen Morgan, who said overall there had been a 30 per cent drop in funding.
Mr Morgan said: ‘The 30 per cent reduction in funding has resulted in less teaching hours and support for our young people and a fall in pay by a staggering 25 per cent.’
Mr Barrable said Portsmouth College had so far kept its curriculum but said he was aware of the effects at other colleges where certain subjects had been cut from the timetable.
‘Smaller colleges in particular have had to remove subjects such as modern foreign languages, philosophy and performing arts. If the issue isn’t addressed we could soon see a situation where colleges can’t provide core text books or be able to replace departing staff,’ explained Mr Barrable.
The report indicates a number of funding implications are already being felt with 67 per cent of colleges having reduced the provision of support services and 77 per cent reporting larger class sizes.
Steve Frampton, Association of Colleges president and for 13 years Principal at Portsmouth College, is concerned about the wider implications of chronic under-funding.
‘Due to funding cuts the average teaching contact time has fallen from 20 to 25 hours per week to 15. Post-16 education is about ensuring we have the workforce we need to support our NHS, look after our ageing population, build the homes we need and to ensure we can compete on the global stage,’ said Mr Frampton.
It is a concern shared by Fareham College principal Nigel Duncan, who added: ‘The funding policies in further education are challenging to work with and are hindering the development of important advanced technical skills to support improved productivity in our economy. It’s often those young people that need upskilling that such policies disadvantage the most.’
A key issue for Mr Barrable is getting money to construct additional teaching space to cater for a projected increase of 250 students by 2024.
‘There has been a bulge in the birth rate which is gradually filtering through and there is currently a lack of capital for expansion. We have submitted a strong bid but it is likely that under current funding only one college across the whole country will be financed to expand its premises,’ explained Mr Barrable.
‘There are currently no plans in place to address this situation. I have written to ministers to express my concern but it is falling on deaf ears. It is important we use this campaign to put pressure on the government,’ added Mr Morgan.
The initiative includes a concerted social media campaign and a petition initiated by Brockenhurst College to gain the support of 100,000 signatures – the amount required to be considered for parliamentary debate.
The culmination of the campaign will see hundreds of education leaders, including Mr Frampton, converge on Parliament this Wednesday demanding that the government redress the situation by increasing funding levels by five per cent for the next five years.
Mr Barrable said: ‘Portsmouth College is right at the heart of the community and wants to continue to provide its excellent service. In order to do so we need to be properly funded. The five per cent being asked for would ensure that colleges can continue to deliver the services they offer.’
‘Colleges do vital work to support 700,000 young people every year. To do that, they need proper investment and support. A failure to invest in colleges is a failure to invest in the country,’ stressed Mr Frampton.