Cuts and Redundancies in the Further Education Sector

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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
18 February 2013

Further education colleges walk a tightrope of financial uncertainty, policy upheaval and erratic management. Even in the years when funding increased, it was no guarantee against cuts and redundancies in the sector. Since the coalition government came to power, education funding across the UK has been reduced at the fastest rate for fifty years. Next year’s settlement for adult education (over 19) will see a real reduction from £3.4 billion to £3.3 billion and a cut of 4.3 per cent. Only job seekers now receive fee remission on courses; ESOL students have to pay 50 per cent of course costs; the statutory entitlement to level 2 and 3 qualifications has been removed for those over 24 and even apprentices will be expected to take out loans to learn. A return to FE on a shoe-string inevitably means accelerated cuts, redundancies, lower pay, poorer employment practices and an increased use of casual labour and short-term contracts.

UNISON carries out an annual survey of college cuts, using freedom of information procedures. In 2012, there was evidence of a 4 per cent decrease in overall staffing, with 6 colleges reducing the workforce by over 20 per cent. There were nearly 6,000 reported redundancies, exceeding 20 per cent of the workforce in 20 colleges. Of these, the majority were in support staff roles, followed closely by teachers. Student enrolment had dropped in 67 per cent of colleges and over 60 per cent had closed courses; nearly 40 per cent blamed the end to free training for many adults. As the funding cuts deepen in the coming year, this contraction of the sector is likely to worsen, with painful consequences for staff who are always the first line of defence in colleges.

This Conference calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

1)Lobby government and the Opposition, working with Labour link, to promote the importance of maintaining and developing the training arm of the economy at a time of triple-dip recession;

2)Work with other unions and campaigners to highlight the social impact of the FE cuts;

3)Campaign to defend college jobs and services across the UK;

4)Ensure that branches and regions provide colleges with the necessary support to defend themselves;

5)Develop sector-specific training and recruitment modules and materials with LAOS and Communications;

6)Recruit and organise in colleges, focusing on the empowerment of reps through training and accreditation as local negotiators.