Bath College joined colleges from across the country this week for the Association of Colleges #LoveOurColleges campaign to showcase the critical value of the work it does and make the case for increased investment from government.
Bath College’s chair of governors, Carole Stott MBE, met local MP, Wera Hobhouse, at the House of Commons to explain the urgent need for more investment.
It is now widely recognised that further education colleges like Bath have been unfairly and dramatically disadvantaged by funding cuts. In the eight years since 2011, annual funding for each young student has dropped by over £1,300, whilst education and training opportunities for adults have dropped by 62%. The Children’s Commissioner, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Education Select Committee have all highlighted the issue.
Local MP Wera Hobhouse is supporting the call for better investment and has signed a cross-party early day motion calling on the Chancellor for improved investment.
She said: “Bath College demonstrates time and time again that young people don’t have to go to university to advance in their lives. Bath’s businesses need young people who are work ready, with specific skills, and Bath College provides this. Young people also need to know that their education will stand them in good stead for progressing in to the world of work.
“Bath College do a fantastic job in the face of a very difficult funding environment. I would like to see people given a lifelong learning account, which they can spend at any point in their lives on educating themselves, at institutions like Bath College.”
Carole Stott said, “Failure to invest in our college is a failure to invest in our young people and our future. Bath College plays a vitally important role in our community. It educates and trains over 2000 young people and 9000 adults each year, leading to successful careers and to jobs so important to our local economy.
“We train the engineers, the construction workers, the care workers and the chefs that our society and our community need. We work with hundreds of local businesses providing the skilled workforce they need to thrive.”
Despite the funding cuts the college was recognised as Good in all areas by Ofsted earlier this year. They described Bath College learners as developing a “strong range of skills, attributes and ways of behaving which prepare them well for employment.”
While “Learners with low confidence or few previous qualification quickly feel at ease and establish excellent relationships with their teachers. As a result, they swiftly develop new skills in learning, and personal and social skills.”
Sarah Kean-Price, the UCU union rep at Bath College said that: “#LoveOurColleges raises a crucial issue in FE – the choice to engage in austerity continues to slash our budget: leaving us overlooked, underfunded and less able to support our community to learn, develop and flourish.
“There is an imperative need to challenge the government to fund FE properly for the betterment of all.”
Carole Stott said, “We always put the success and well-being of our students first but recently the college has been operating at a loss which means we’ve had to make severe cuts and have not been able to offer pay increases for our hard-working and dedicated staff. We need to be able to recruit the best staff, and with increased pension costs just around the corner this position is not sustainable.
“With skills shortages looming the government must invest in our colleges and our future.”