Harrow College and Uxbridge College have joined every general further education college in England in an unprecedented move to urge action following a major review of post-18 education.
In total, 203 leaders of the colleges and merged college groups have joined forces to write an open letter to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Education calling on them to “answer the calls from business” and respond to the “challenges of technological change and Brexit” by urgently investing in the country’s technical and vocational education system by implementing the main recommendations of the government’s recent Post-18 Education Review (the Augar Review).
The leaders, including Laraine Smith OBE who has signed the letter as Principal of Harrow College Uxbridge College (the merged college group, HCUC), and Pat Carvalho, Principal of Harrow College, are responsible for institutions that educate and train 2 million people each year, employing 180,000 staff and with a combined turnover of £6 billion per annum.
The Augar Review has called for, amongst other things, an end to the 17.5% cut in education funding for 18-year-olds, so that everybody, regardless of age, could be supported to achieve to at least level three (A Levels or equivalent qualifications), and a rebalancing of the traditional post-18 educational landscape.
Laraine Smith, Principal of HCUC said: “At Harrow College and Uxbridge College we are proud to be joining every other Further Education college and merged college group in the UK in adding our support to this letter, which rightly promotes the case for increased recognition of the work of FE colleges as captured in the Augar Report.
“This includes the more-than-justified case for improved funding for colleges which unfairly receive less funding than both schools and higher education institutions for providing equivalent education and training. We very much hope the Government will take this national call for action seriously and finally start giving FE colleges, their students and the employers they are training on behalf of the support that they rightly deserve.”
Key extracts from the letter:
“[The Post-18 Review] understands that employers and communities need more high quality technical and professional education and training, industry standard facilities, expert staff and the unique curriculum that colleges already provide. It sees colleges as the key vehicle for the flexible, local delivery of national strategies, supporting industrial policy, productivity, skills development and genuine social equity. It clearly acknowledges that all this requires real investment.”
“In many respects the Augar Review represents a wider emerging consensus across England. We are sure that you will agree with us and other key stakeholders that further education colleges have been neglected, and that there is now a growing appreciation of their unique role, value and potential. What we now need are decisions and commitments: with your political leadership, support and resolve, colleges will be able to build on what they already do to reach more employers and more adults and make the differences our economy and society need. “
Bev Robinson OBE, member of the Independent Panel and co-author of the Augar Review said: “The government’s response to the outcomes of the well-received Augar Review is arguably a watershed moment for the British government. Choosing to enact the recommendations would demonstrate the government’s commitment to the much-needed skills revolution which our country needs, which industry is crying out for and which will promote social equity for all adults, not just the 50% as it is now.”
Alun Francis, Principal and Chief Executive, Oldham College, who led the campaign to get every college to sign the letter, said: “The technical and professional education which our colleges specialise in is a hidden strength of this country. There is some astonishingly good provision, but the system overall has been held back by a clear view of its role backed by a serious investment plan. Implementing the Augar Review will genuinely change lives, communities and the economy for a generation. Now is the time to act.”
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges said: “It is extraordinary to have every leader in every general further education college in the country collaborate like this. But then these are extraordinary times. These college leaders are uniquely placed at the hearts of their communities, working closely with local, national and international business, supporting individuals to get on in life, and driving the social mobility agenda.
Government needs to listen to them if they’ve got any chance of tackling the major issues this country faces, now and in the future.
For the full letter and signatories list, click here