Blog: Time to stop FE cuts and invest in education

There are few things that can benefit someone more than education. To learn, gaining fresh experience and knowledge, is something that benefits both the learner and the whole of society.

An educated society is one that can do more together.

In our education system, further education (FE) plays a vital role. It supports both young people and adult learners through a huge range of qualifications in a variety of different subjects and skills.

FE colleges are more likely to educate pupils with special educational needs, take on more students who receive free school meals and often cater for those who haven’t achieved their full potential in the pre-16 education system.

Yet in recent years, under recent governments, we’ve seen massive cuts to the FE sector that has had a huge knock-on impact on all communities.

One million adult learners have been lost from further education, while thousands of dedicated staff have left the sector as their pay and conditions have come under attack.

Years of underfunding have created a harsh financial climate that’s forced colleges to merge, shed staff and limit courses simply to survive.

If the UK is to have a strong economy in future, and for productivity rates to rise, the government should be encouraging the next generation of working people, not restricting students’ ability to thrive.

Ministers should be backing the FE sector with the investment it needs to deliver technical education and training for apprenticeships, rather than relying on fly-by-night training agencies that lack the same track record.

That’s why the government needs to take a different approach.

Our country faces real uncertainty, and whatever happens next, the further education sector is going to have a crucial role to play.

At the budget on 22 November, the government has an opportunity to invest in public services and those who work in them – including FE colleges, which have been amongst the hardest hit by nearly a decade of austerity.

This government must show it is willing and able to prepare our country for the challenges of the future – and its treatment of vital public services like FE will show how serious about governing ministers really are.