UK Labour Party: 4 in 10 Further Education Colleges Risk Closure

The Labour Party in the United Kingdom has warned that up to four in ten further education (FE) and sixth-form colleges in England are facing the risk of closure due to impending budget cuts in the 2015 Spending Review.

The UK Treasury and the Department for Education are in negotiations, and FE and sixth-form colleges are not protected from budget cuts. According to the BBC, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne wants departments with unprotected budgets to propose cuts of 25 to 40 percent, which could put post-16 education in great peril.

The party commissioned an analysis by the House of Commons library that showed a 25% savings plan for FE and sixth-form colleges translates into £1.625 billion ($2.47 billion) less funding. Cuts in this range could lead to the closing of about 56 sixth-form colleges and 80 FE colleges, Judith Burns of the BBC writes. A budget cut of this extent means almost one in two schools might be shutting down.

If the budget cuts in the upcoming Spending Review are approved, FE colleges could face budget losses of £1.173 billion and sixth-form colleges cuts of about £451 million. Lucy Powell, the Shadow education secretary, said that Cameron’s government is putting education on a ‘cliff edge’ and making education opportunities for younger generations more difficult.

The upcoming post-16 cuts will add to previous funding cuts of no less than 14 percent that have already put many colleges in a challenging position. Lucy Powell said according to The Guardian:

“Labour committed to protecting the whole education budget from the early years to 19 because we value the entire journey of a child through education, including early years and post-16. Under the Tories, these areas face cuts, putting four in 10 colleges under threat of closure.”

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association, said that Labour’s analysis is “deeply worrying,” Lucy Sherriff of Huffington Post reports.

Kewin said that the report’s estimations served as a confirmation that sixth-form colleges will be extinct soon after the Spending Review. He explained in his comments how funding for post-16 education has already been reduced three times in the last four years.

School principals warn that if the cuts are approved the quality and options of post-16 education will deteriorate with many courses such as music, design, and technology removed. John Widdowson, the principal at a further education college, told The Guardian:

“It will affect the number of taught hours that students have and the range of options and choice.”

Martin Doel, the chief executive of the Association for Colleges, said that post-16 colleges cannot handle any further budget cuts, The Independent reports.

In response, the government’s spokesperson said about the work done by Cameron, emphasizing that his government has put an end to discriminatory funding by implementing a per-student funding policy:

“We have protected the schools budget and ended the unfair difference between post-16 schools and colleges by funding them per student, rather than discriminating between qualifications.”

In the same vein, the Department for Education stated that colleges in the post-16 sector have the resources necessary to continue offering high-quality education as is, the Huffington Post reports.