Yesterday the British media changed UK electioneering practice and the English language by threatening “to empty chair” any party leaders choosing not to take part in a TV debate. Today, ever at the forefront of educational funding and philology, I am empty chairing participants in the debate on further cuts to FE funding…
In this pre-election period, parties (political and interested) are out-bidding each other for which shrinking public sector budgets should be protected and where the next round of spending cuts should or shouldn’t fall. The further education sector is no different. The sector’s representatives are martialling the case for why we should value and protect Learning and Skills. What’s been more difficult so far, has been to put together the argument of why post-16 education and training should continue to bear a disproportionate brunt of the public purse’s shortfall. Until now…
In case you’ve missed it, here’s the context of where we are. For those of you who find my blogs a bit wordy, here are three graphs, borrowed from the Association of Colleges, showing:
1. The discrepancies of money received by institutions as a learner moves from school, through college, to university
2. The planned 6-year decline of the Adult Skills Budget by over one-third
3. University and College incomes heading respectively North and South over the same period
So that’s the context. The arguments in support of reversing or halting this trend for cutting the skills budget are well-rehearsed. They tend to centre around:
- the increasing relative costs of vocational education post-16 (in terms of class sizes, providing industry-standard resources, and the need to turn around failure of the schools system in English and maths)
- the importance of growing high-level technician skills to the long-term success of UK plc in the global marketplace
- the need to re-skill and re-engage young people aged 16-24 in the age group most at risk from persistent unemployment.
But what about the argument to continue letting the Learning and Skills sector bear the brunt of the cuts? What about the justifications to support further unparalled cuts to college and training provider funding? Well, if you’ve missed them, please read on. For the first time ever, gathered together in one place, here is the list of all the very good reasons why we should continue to treat the skills budget as a lesser priority than funding schools and less important than resourcing universities.
So don’t forget you heard them here first… (pauses for dramatic effect)… and here they are: