The Sheffield College is backing the national Love Our Colleges campaign to increase funding for colleges, which it claims has dropped by around 30 per cent since 2009.
Further education teachers earn on average £7,000 a year less than their counterparts in schools, according to the Association of Colleges, and The Sheffield College has warned it is becoming increasingly hard to recruit the best staff, especially in subjects like engineering.
Sheffield’s MPs highlighted the college’s plight during a parliamentary debate about further education funding this week.
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said: “In Sheffield, we have a tale of two cities. The difference in life expectancy between the east and west is 10 years.
“One of the biggest differences is that in the east we have little access to schools with sixth forms, so further education is a really important unlocker for social mobility. Does my honourable friend agree that this is fundamentally a class issue?”
Gill Furniss, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, said: “I applaud the work of The Sheffield College in my constituency during these difficult times.
“Does my honourable friend agree that we are taking away a vital support system for many in our working-class communities, and that we will rob them of vital opportunities for the future, unless we change now, and start giving further education colleges the support that they need and individuals the community support that they need to realise their potential?”
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on students, said The Sheffield College provides a ‘great education’ for 17,000 students, more than half of whom come from disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
He told how the college was already underfunded and faced a further £120,000 of cuts, which would make things even harder.
“Colleges have not had the necessary resources to provide the support that further education students need. I hope that the minister will make the argument to the treasury for redressing the underfunding of recent years and ensure that our colleges have the funding they need to make the real difference that they seek to provide for students,” he added.
Speaking in the debate on Tuesday, skills minister Anne Milton said: “We have put in £470 million to help colleges to restructure, but until we collectively recognise the added value that further education colleges give us, we will not see the changes in funding that are needed….
“Amid the cries for schools funding and the concerns for universities, further education can get lost. However, if we accept not only the personal gain for individuals but the potential productivity gains for the country, the case to the chancellor is surely clear. With tin hats on, we continue into battle to make the case for further education.”