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Staff and students protest college cuts

Demonstrators want to save jobs at Coleg Sir Gâr - Photograph by Jason Thomas
Demonstrators want to save jobs at Coleg Sir Gâr - Photograph by Jason Thomas
Demonstrators want to
save jobs at Coleg Sir Gâr – Photograph by Jason Thomas

CUTS OF up to 50% to adult education funds have caused fury across Wales.

Those cuts some on top of existing so-called ‘efficiency’ cuts already planned for the next academic year.

The cuts, announced for the academic year beginning in September, will severely reduce the opportunities available for adults, many of whom are ‘second chance’ learners returning to education later on in their lives to improve their job prospects.

As well as cutting course provision, colleges are reducing the number of staff to meet the hole in the budgets following the Welsh Government’s announcement.

There will be an average 6.14% budget cut at Wales’s 15 colleges between 2014/15 and 2015/16 but that smaller percentage masks the much more savage cut to courses for those over 19 years of age, which will bear the brunt of savings in favour of other priorities – courses for 16-19 year-olds.

The principal of Coleg Sir Gar, Barry Liles, told The Herald: “We are naturally very perturbed by the actions of the Welsh Government in reducing our funding going forward and the impact this will have particularly on adult learners next year. Staff and students are naturally concerned by this and wish to voice their opinions at this time.”

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The college told The Herald that funding reductions coupled with increased pension contributions will see a shortfall of over £2.5M in the college’s budget going into the next academic year.

Managers at the college are currently working with staff and trade unions on implementing a voluntary redundancy scheme across all campuses which has been offered to all staff. Coleg Sir Gar will also continue to develop more efficient and cost effective ways of working in the coming year and will continue to target alternative sources of income.

Unison & UCU representatives, John Lloyd & Steve Jones, both said: “These cuts would be a devastating blow to colleges and risk decimating further education. We have real concerns that the Welsh government’s plans could be the final nail in the coffin for the types of courses people want to study as a springboard for improving their skills or just to try and get back into work. We urge the Welsh government to pull back from this.”

Robert Goddard, on behalf of ATL said: “FE is reeling from these huge cuts to funding. We are losing expertise from the workforce that will be irreplaceable. We should be investing in young peoples’ futures not penalising them for being over 19. It is ridiculous for the Welsh Government to say that they won’t impact on 16-19 provision in FE and schools.”