Colleges in crisis

Education leaders in Cornwall have come together in a unique “urgent” new protest over funding.

Headteachers and principals of Cornwall’s providers of post-16 education have signed a letter to all six Cornish MPs, who are all Conservatives, about shared “serious concerns” about the “underfunding” of learners in the 16-to-19 age group.

All 16 heads and principals have added their backing to a recent joint protest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by leaders of national unions, local authority bodies and education organisations.

That letter describes how, after many years of cuts, funding for education and skills now “drops by 21% when a young person reaches the age of 16.”

The letter says this undermines efforts to boost the UK’s low productivity and increase its social mobility, two key aims of Government policy.

Earlier this year, a special debate on the funding issue was sparked in Parliament by East Devon’s Conservative MP Sir Hugo Swire.

Now campaigners want an increase of £200 per post-16 student in the November Budget, something which, says the national letter, could be largely funded by “the recent under- spend in the Department for Education’s’ budget for 16-19 education”.

The letter ends: “The chronic underinvestment in sixth form education is bad for stu- dents, bad for our international competitiveness and bad for social mobility”.

In writing to all Cornish MPs, heads and principals in the county say they are endorsing that letter and asking for their specific support for its core request in the interests of young people and the economy across Cornwall.

Speaking on behalf of Cornwall Sixth Forms Together, chair Alex Lingard, who is Head- teacher at Liskeard School and Community College, said: “Adequately funded education of young people of sixth form age is crucial to our local and national social and economic prospects.

“The fact that sixth formers in Cornwall are now only funded to receive half the tuition time as sixth formers in other leading economies has to be addressed if we are going to invest in our collective socio-economic futures.”

Speaking on behalf of the colleges – Cornwall College, Callywith College, and Truro and Pen- with College – David Walrond, Principal of Truro and Penwith College, said: “Schools and colleges transform the lives of young people but as importantly, the health and the prospects of the economies to which these learners then contribute. To do that, they must have required investment.

“The particular socio-economic challenges of Cornwall make adequate funding at all stages of education and training essential.

“We clearly do not have anything like that for our post-16 learners at present. We are relying on our representatives in parliament to recognise that and to make the case strongly.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.