The Principals of the six colleges in the Black Country came together last week with their local MPs to celebrate the valuable work that is being done in the further education (FE) sector to transform the skills of young people and adults living across the local area.
The meeting was the culmination of a range of activities locally and nationally which have been part of the Association of Colleges (AoC) campaign, under the umbrella title of the “Love our Colleges” which has called on government to invest more in colleges and their staff.
The meeting explored some of the funding issues recently highlighted in the Institute of Fiscal Studies annual report on education and spending in England, which identifies that real terms funding for further education has fallen by about 8% from 2010-11 levels.
MPs and Principals were joined by the Chairs of their Corporations at the event, as they acknowledged the collective power of the Black Country Colleges who together train 22,000 young people aged 16-18, 16,000 adults and 8,000 apprentices including 3,000 young people annually.
Speaking on behalf of the meeting Lowell Williams Chair of Black Country Colleges said: “Further education is pivotal to providing the skills training that will drive economic growth. In the skills infrastructure FE has been the big looser for many years with reduced funding but more demands placed up on it. This can’t go on if we are going to deliver a post-Brexit Industrial strategy which sees businesses competing even more fiercely at an international level. We need to fairly fund the sector so we can give our young people and the adults we are upskilling the technical skills that will drive business growth in the new market place.”
MP Mike Wood speaking on behalf of his fellow MPs said: “It was a useful reminder of the collective effort of colleges and the marvellous work they are doing across the area to provide opportunities for the people of the Black Country to realise their full educational potential. We heard the messages loud and clear that we must all do more to safeguard this valuable work by increasing college funding to sustainable levels.”
A national petition has been launched to bring this issue to wider public attention and has already received the backing of 40,000 people across the country. Members of the public can sign the petition at:https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/229744.