FE heads and unions join to lobby for cash

April 26, 2002

Further education college heads, staff union leaders and students joined forces this week to lobby Parliament for an extra £2.5 billion to boost standards and widen participation.

They warned ministers and MPs that the government's targets for further education would not be achieved without an additional £320 million a year by 2005-06.

They said the money was "essential" to help close a £1,000-a-year gap between funding received per A-level student by colleges and that received by school sixth forms.

They said it was also needed to provide equal entitlement to an education maintenance allowance for students across the country and to bolster lecturers' pay. They claimed that it has fallen behind that of school teachers by £2,600 a year since 1993.

About 140 college representatives were expected to join the lobby to put their views to lifelong learning minister Margaret Hodge, Learning and Skills Council chief executive John Harwood, Tory education spokesman Alistair Burt and Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis.

Students called for education maintenance allowances, worth up to £40 a week for post-16 students whose parents earn less than £30,000 a year, to be rolled out nationally. They are only available in pilot areas and 70 per cent of students do not qualify.

The lobby brought a temporary truce between Natfhe, the college lecturers' union and the Association of Colleges. They are locked in a dispute over pay that could lead to a two-day strike by lecturers next month.

Paul Mackney, Natfhe's general secretary, said: "We have a common cause to seek to secure enough money from the government to enable us not to have a dispute. We appreciate that colleges have a funding problem. We do not necessarily agree with the way they allocate funds, but we share their need to resolve the funding crisis."

The AoC says a 2.5 per cent pay increase to match the same percentage increase in funding from the Learning and Skills Council would cost the sector another £846 million a year. Further education has received an extra £85 million from the LSC.

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