UNISON is campaigning for a better deal for education workers

In 2015 the government announced plans to restructure the further education sector, citing “the need to reduce public expenditure” as a major driving factor.

The review document proposes to move the sector towards “fewer, often large, more resilient and efficient providers”. As part of the cost savings, the three main areas the review is focusing on are curriculum, estates and back office. UNISON is concerned about the threat this raises around job security and site closures or relocations.

How will the reviews work?

The review will take the form of a series of area based reviews of provisions. Each review will be led by a steering group composed of a range of stakeholders, including Colleges, local authorities, regional schools commissioners, college commissioners and local enterprise partnerships.

Trade unions, however, have not been included and must instead hold parallel meetings with key members of the steering groups in order to find out what is going on.

The process will begin with an analysis of economic need and current provisions/delivery arrangements in the area. Colleges will be sent questionnaires which will be used to inform the review.

The steering groups will then conduct a series of five meetings, including site visits, to decide on their recommendations.

College boards will be informed of proposed recommendations and have a chance to provide feedback before the final recommendations are made.


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  • Which review area and review wave is my college in?

    Check this list to see if your college is involved. Please note, only Wave 1, 2 and 3 colleges have been announced so far: review Waves 4 and 5 have yet to be defined.

  • When is my area review meeting taking place?

    Where meeting dates have been announced, they can be found in this spreadsheet.

  • Who do I contact to find out more about the area review where I am?

    A list of UNISON contacts, as well as contacts for the official lead in each review area, can be found here.

  • What is the timescale for the area review process?

    Although the initial intention was that the reviews would take 3-4 months, the reviews which started in September 2015 have yet to make recommendations as of February 2016. By March 2017 it is intended that all areas of England will be covered by reports with recommendations.

  • What are UNISON’s concerns about the area reviews?

    • That the key driver of the review is further cost savings rather than the aim to genuinely improve further education provision.
    • The limited scope of the review does not include all educational providers in an area.
    • The failure to include trade unions and learner representatives on the steering groups.
    • The impact of a potential reduction in FE sites will have on learners’ ability to access courses.
    • The impact on the job security and terms and conditions of staff, in particular for those considered to be ‘back office’ functions.
    • The threat of privatisation.
  • What is UNISON’s position on the area reviews?

    UNISON believes in the crucial role that further education plays in society and our local communities and supports greater investment in the sector rather than further cuts. We believe that access to further education should be for all, and we are concerned about the proposals to reduce the number of access points to education. As representatives of support staff within FE we are seeking commitments on job security and protection of pensions, pay and terms and conditions. It is clear that the reviews will have significant implications for staff and learners and we firmly believe that the interests of these groups needs to be properly consulted throughout the process.