The Windsor Forest Colleges Group Principal and CEO Kate Webb has joined forces with the leaders of every general further education college in England to write an open letter to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Education urging them to “answer the calls from business” and respond to the “challenges of technological change and Brexit”. In this unprecedented move the letter calls on the government to urgently invest 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). 

 Commenting on the importance of the government taking action now, Ms Webb said: “We want to make sure the government is not distracted from the findings of the Augar Review which offers a turning point for the way in which colleges are funded now and into the future. Our colleges are primed and ready to deliver the country’s urgent demands for technical and vocational skills. However, we need the right level of funding to deliver the skills revolution this country requires.”

The 203 leaders are responsible for institutions that educate and train 2 million people each year, employing 180,000 staff with a combined turnover of £6 billion per annum.

The Augar Review called for, amongst other things, an end to the 17.5% cut in education funding for 18-year-olds, support so that everybody, regardless of age, to achieve to at least Level three, and a rebalancing of the traditional post-18 educational landscape.

Key extracts from the letter include:

  • “[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. “

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges concludes: “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.”

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