Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West and Hessle, has called on the government to rethink Further Education Funding and do more to support and save jobs at Hull College.
Questioning the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, during a meeting of the Education Select Committee, Emma raised the issues of funding, pupil premium and the number of contact hours that students have in college, particularly in relation to the ongoing situation with Hull College.
Hull College has made 527 members of staff redundant in the 5 years between 2011 and 2016. In December 2016 best estimates available indicated structural debt of £10 million and in-year budgeted deficit of a further £1 million. They have been awarded a fresh start grant.
The college has issued notice to UCU of the need to make 231 FTE redundancies across all 3 main sites of the College. This staffing cut represents a loss of 1 in 3 of the entire workforce and a 20% cut in teaching staff. This is to meet the Government’s imposed restriction of expenditure on staffing being n more than 65% of income.
17% of students across all of FE have a learning difficulty and/or a disability. 17% of 16-18 year olds in FE claim free school meals at age 15. The fact there is no pupil premium at 16 means that colleges can only carve out targeted support by making savings elsewhere in their budgets. This lack of access to pupil premium shuts off a potential source of funding for Further Education colleges like Hull College.
When he became Secretary of State, Damian Hinds said he would tackle burning injustices, Emma described this lack of access to pupil premium as a ‘burning injustice’.
On the issue of contact time, young people at Hull College have told Emma that they receive only 9 hrs a week (down from 15 previously) in contact time compared to more than 25 in many OECD countries. This reduction is due to the funding. Emma asked the Secretary of State to conduct a study into the number of hours students should expect to get in contact time and use this to calculate the funding each FE college needs.
Commenting after the committee hearing, Emma said “Further education can be a real empowering influence to people- both immediately after school and later in life- and is something that we should be supporting whole heartedly but the levels of funding cuts to Further Education since this government took office in 2010 have been completely unsustainable and have severely damaged the delivery of FE in this country.
They’ve hit Hull College particularly hard. Today I identified three areas to the Secretary of State on funding cuts, pupil premium and contact hours where funding can be reformed and jobs saved at Hull College. That being said, FE needs real financial support and reform from this government to make it the learner focussed, empowering institution that we know it can be. I look forward to continuing to press the government on this issue.”