Pressure grows for U-turn on education cuts said to hit the vulnerable hardest

The Guardian has a report from the Croydon College – further education college thought to be the worst-affected by cuts to funding for 18-year-olds…

…Their educational journeys may be unconventional, but they are not unusual, says Di Layzelle, head of student life and pastoral care at Croydon College, which is located in one of the most deprived parts of the borough. Around 70% of students here are non-white British (compared with 20% nationally). And not only does Croydon have one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in London, it is also a train stop away from Gatwick airport and home to the UK Border Agency headquarters, which means young people “quite literally walk out of the Home Office and into the college wanting to learn with us,” says Layzelle…

But while staff at the college are proud of their ability to meet the needs of a diverse community, cuts to funding could make it much more difficult for them to continue to do so. From September, money for students in England who are already 18 will be cut by 17.5%. As reported last week, concern is growing that the cuts will hit the most vulnerable students hardest.

Croydon College, which has an unusually high number of 18-year-olds, says it will be hard hit, losing around £511,000 from its £26m annual budget…

According to figures published by the education department (DfE) last month, Croydon has more students at underperforming schools than any other London borough. It also has one of the biggest shortages of school places and fastest growth in pupil numbers in the country.

The minister for skills, Matthew Hancock, has justified the cuts on the basis that, by the age of 18, most young people have already had two years of post-16 learning. But in very deprived areas, young people are far more likely to have dropped out or had other interruptions to their education, says Reed.

“Where you get high levels of deprivation, you tend to get young people who didn’t manage to achieve basic qualifications in English and maths by the time they leave school, which means it takes them that bit longer to get on the right path,” says Reed. “Where you get high levels of immigration, you also tend to get high levels of aspiration, but external factors – like lack of English language skills – can often mean a learner’s journey takes slightly longer.”

Frances Wadsworth, principal and chief executive of Croydon College, says the proposed cuts are based on a misunderstanding of how things work “on the ground” in colleges. “It’s as if [ministers] think students get to a certain level and then you say, ‘Well, actually, you don’t need any more input because you’ve reached a certain age’ … and then you put on a course for 18-year-olds that has fewer hours. Well, it doesn’t work like that. Students come in at different levels and ages, according to their ability. Perhaps school didn’t work out, or they were told to do A-levels – because it was all the school could offer – and then realised that wasn’t for them. You can’t separate them [students] out.”

And because further education students are taught by stage, not age, if principals are forced to increase class sizes or cut courses in order to balance the books, this will affect 16- and 17-year-olds just as much as 18-year-olds…

The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has written to Hancock to point out that the recent rise in the education participation age – now 17 and due to rise to 18 in 2015 – makes the new cuts all the worse. Johnson also warns that trying to make short-term savings could lead to a rise in the numbers of young people not in education or employment – which could prove more expensive in the long-run…

More at: Pressure grows for U-turn on education cuts said to hit the vulnerable hardest

Has the DfE got this one wrong? Please give us your thoughts and let us know what impact you think the cuts might have in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. Value_added

    SchoolsImprove Young People lost EMA hitting money for books&travel especially in rural areas. No jobs – now cuts to their courses #revolt

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