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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Colleges say 'we are broke'
There are four million students in further education
Further education colleges say they are facing a financial crisis.

A lobby of Parliament, organised by college organisations, students and trade unions, says the further education sector is in urgent need of extra funding.

it is calling for an extra 2.5bn in this summer's comprehensive spending review.

"We are saying publicly for the first time that colleges are broke - they haven't the money to meet the bills," said a statement from the Association of Colleges.

The association says 86 colleges are "financially weak" and many more are trading at a loss.

College heads say core funding is less now than in the mid-1990s.

The further education sector has complained that it has not received funding increases on a similar level to those received by schools, despite the large number of young people in further education.

Industrial action

The Association of Colleges says there are 70% more 16 to 19 year olds in further education than in schools - with a current total of 675,000.

Altogether there are an estimated four million students in the further education system, including those studying part-time courses.

College principals say further education and sixth form colleges are central to the government's plans to keep more young people in education and training.

Student unions say maintenance allowances, paid to some students aged 16 to 19, should be made more widely available to encourage more young people to stay in education.

'Low pay'

Pay for further education lecturers has also slipped behind, say college unions, with starting salaries for school teachers now higher than their college counterparts.

Unions representing college staff earlier this month rejected a 1.5% pay offer - with the threat of industrial action in pursuit of a higher settlement.

There have also been complaints that pay settlements - which are negotiated nationally but paid locally - have not been implemented in all colleges.

The lecturers' union Natfhe said staff were being recruited on such low salaries they qualified for government tax credits to supplement the earnings of low-paid workers.

"Lecturers' jobs are being advertised on starting salaries of between 14,250 and 16,000 - leaving some fully qualified lecturers with families below the 307 per week working families tax credit threshold," the union said.

Lecturers' stories

Alan Coupe, a manager at Norwich City College, said: "Our college has had difficulties in recruiting teaching staff in engineering, maths and has relied increasingly on casual teaching staff."

Liz Barraclough, a lecturer at Middlesbrough College, said: "Five members of our teaching staff have recently left to go teach in schools.

"We have had more and more teachers employed through a casuals agency. They do their best, but they just can't support the students in the same way."

Jacqui Johnson, a lecturer at Bracknell and Wokingham College, said it worked alongside a school sixth form - but lecturers doing "the exact same job" were on vastly different pay.

"Some college lecturers earn nearly 3,000 less," she said.

Natfhe's general secretary, Paul Mackney, said: "This is a last ditch effort to convince the government that they have to come up with the cash if colleges are to be play a major part in their plans for reskilling this country.

"Our members have had enough. They delivered expansion on a shoestring and have been rewarded with the some of the lowest pay in education."

FE student Money woes
College students' financial complaints
See also:

20 Apr 02 | Mike Baker
Will Cinderella get to the ball?
17 Apr 02 | Education
College staff reject 1.5% pay offer
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