There have been several articles in the news over the last month or two reporting the cuts to funding for Colleges of Further Education.
The government’s review of Further Education Colleges is causing concern among students, parents and other learners who use FE colleges instead of school.
These colleges have often been frowned upon as second rate alternatives. But they certainly are not – they provide an important resource for many; for those who may have missed the opportunity to take their education further in their school years, for those whom school just doesn’t suit and who don’t want to do sixth form, for those wanting different subjects, for returning learners, and for previously home educated children who have no desire to go to school.
Also, FE colleges provide a range of courses often not available in schools where the emphasis is on more academic subjects not suited to all learners. For, as well as academic qualifications, FE colleges usually offer more Vocational or skill based Qualifications which suit many youngsters better, giving them skills for work and a sense of achievement, where academically they may have struggled.
These options cater far better for the fact that not all learners are the same, yet can equally thrive and achieve if given different opportunities.
However, the National Union of Students (NUS) fears these opportunities may well be destroyed by the government’s plan to review them and make cuts.
The school environment clearly does not suit all learners and FE colleges offer a supportive alternative to the school style learning climate. This does not mean that students are not required to work. Indeed the more independent learning approach expected in many FE colleges requires self discipline from the learners, which clearly some find difficult. But it would be a huge shame if cuts were such that these chances to achieve became less available and options were pared down to little more than just schools.
There’s a real danger this could be what happens with proposals to close some colleges and merge them with others. There would be fewer campuses and a smaller range of courses.
It would be particularly inhibiting in rural areas where students already have to endure many miles of travel to attend with usually poor transport services. This will force more learners out of the equation.
Hence the NUS are calling for students, young people, and anyone involved in FE colleges to support their campaign to defend Further Education colleges from cuts. And to make their views known and to raise awareness within their community about the valuable role colleges play.
Many communities depend on colleges as an educational provider for their learners. The funding cuts to colleges is just another pruning of what is already a narrowing of educational opportunity, the value of which those who make these decisions probably fail to appreciate.
It’s important we do what we can to protect this option for our youngsters.