COMMENT: Sixth form colleges deserve more than this

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Another day and yet another story about a service that is coming apart at the seams due to under-funding.

But to dismiss the news that our sixth form colleges as merely the latest in a long line of such stories would be to overlook the critical importance of such educational institutions.

There is perhaps the feeling that the post-16 colleges are not afforded the same place in the public’s attention as schools and universities.

But they are much more than simply places where 700,000 young people a year spend a while kicking their heels to bridge the gap between school and university.

For many it represents the end of their educational journey before they enter the world of full-time work and supposed adulthood.

With principals warning that years of successive cuts are having a devastating impact on teaching – with contact time hugely reduced, it does not bode well for the students’ experience of college life. Or how it prepares them for the workplace.

As budgets evaporate so too do the choices on the curriculum – foreign languages and the arts are often the first casualties. But in any country that likes to think of itself as a modern global player, they are subjects we can ill afford to lose.

It is not just teaching and subject matter that is being affected either – two-thirds of colleges are reporting that they are having to cut support services. And with teachers’ pay also crumbling, it is hardly any surprise that colleges are struggling to recruit as well.

Fareham College principal Nigel Duncan is perhaps putting it politely when he describes the funding policies as ‘challenging.’

It all paints a rather grim picture.

So, with hundreds of educational leaders heading to parliament tomorrow in a bid to sway government to their cause, we are fully behind them.