At our National Council in Cardiff back in December Amy Smith, President of Sheffield College Student's Union, was re-elected as our Further Education rep. Here she writes for us on how this Government is letting Further Education students down and why Labour needs to make the case for investment in FE.
This cruel Conservative Government, seven years into its time in office, has often shown that it does not care about students. They have also shown how they unafraid to deliver the harshest cuts to those communities and groups that can least afford such cuts. One such sector is Further Education. The government has slashed budgets and wreaked havoc in this area, an area that has always offered people a second chance to achieve, a second chance to train and a second chance to learn.
In 2015 the Government began reviewing post-16 education and training institutions. This was a worrying development which in reality simply meant more cuts. With this Area Reviews came into play, set out to move towards larger, fewer and in their words “more resilient” providers. This move, making institutions more remote, cutting out students that can’t afford to travel further, cutting classes in the name of “rationalisation” and forcing colleges to decide who to make redundant, being the only option, or the threat of having to go it alone and dealing with the further cuts that will inevitably follow.
This is a Government that at every opportunity seems to talk up the value of vocational education and always claim they want to offer young people more opportunities, but the reality is very different. They have consistently failed to deliver for these students, have always come up short and at the same time put the sector as a whole in serious peril.
What the Further Education sector needs is investment; investment in careers advice, investment in mental health provision and investment in teaching and learning. In short, what the sector needs is investment in students and the backing of a government that realises Further Education is a vital lifeline for so many.