Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Colleges face adult course cuts

The AoC says many courses in vocational skills are at risk

Further education colleges in England face an average budget cut of 16% for adult learning, the Association of Colleges claims.

In a survey of 147 colleges, the AoC found 62 faced a cut from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) of more than 20%.

Courses at risk included plumbing, electrical installation, catering, care and A-levels and GCSEs for adults.

The AoC is urging ministers to allow colleges to transfer money between budgets to keep courses available.

The association says the cuts amount to a total of £200m across the sector in England.

The survey was based on the provisional allocations that have been issued by the SFA.

AoC chief executive Martin Doel said: "At a time when colleges are helping Britain beat the recession they are facing the prospect of having to cut courses for adults.

"They understand how tough public finances are, but they don't want to lose high quality courses that are essential to our economic recovery and make a great deal of difference to people and businesses across Britain.

"We are calling on government to allow colleges to be more flexible with their funding, so that they can help support these courses where possible by transferring money between budgets - something they are not allowed to do currently."

'A mockery'

The University and College Union is also urging the government to drop plans for adult learning cuts.

The UCU said cuts in adult learning could impact on colleges' work with young people, because many vocational tutors also taught 16-19 year olds.

Making swingeing cuts to adult learning now would be an outrageous affront to the millions of people
Sally Hunt, UCU

The union said the cuts "made a mockery of the government's much-vaunted commitment to education".

And it warned many of the courses likely to be affected are skills for life programmes which are aimed at people with few or no qualifications in literacy and maths.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said the government needed to realise the impact the cuts would have.

"We face the very frightening prospect of many courses having to close and provision being vastly scaled back.

"This will be a hammer blow to staff and students and make it much harder for people to get back in to education.

"The government has rightly identified education as a key driver of social mobility. However, making swingeing cuts to adult learning now would be an outrageous affront to the millions of people it has promised it would not let down."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said the government had boosted funding for all adult learner places by 2.9% to £3.5bn in the next financial year.

"The work colleges do is hugely important to our economy, giving people the training and skills they need to succeed."

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