Current and planned cuts in further education will hit women and  black and ethnic minorities harder than most according to the Woman’s Leadership Network (WLN) and the Network of Black Professionals (NBP).

The two organisations are so worried about the unfair effect, they have outlined their fears in a letter to the Chancellor, George Osborne. Their concerns were voiced at the organisations’  annual joint conference (as summarised in FE Week) during a debate on how further education leaders and professionals  could lessen the cuts’ effects.

“Women and black and ethnic minority learners are overrepresented in further education, which means they will be disproportionately affected by the overall cut of 25 per cent in adult provision over the next four years,” explained Sally Dicketts, chair of WLN.

The requirement for many learners over the age of 24 to pay their own fees, and for ESOL learners to co-fund their learning, would affect lower-paid women while many women and people from disadvantaged  backgrounds could be put off taking  higher programmes because they don’t like having loans, she said.

Welfare reforms  were another concern since they were more likely to affect those involved in caring who were more likely to be women who could be further restricted from taking part in FE.

For women in the FE teaching workforce, the need for greater flexibility, including more antisocial hours, was likely to make it more difficult for those with caring responsibilities.

Meanwhile Robin Landman, chief executive of NBP said that with 22 per cent of learners in FE, and a high proportion of disadvantaged learners in urban areas from black and minority ethnic backgrounds:  “We are worried that the loss of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) and cuts to 16-19 entitlement funding will lead to a reduction in student support for them.”

He continued: “The rules about unemployed people and those on jobseeker’s allowance being restricted to only eight weeks of study in most cases arelikely to affect a disproportionate number of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, denying them access to more substantial qualifications for progression. And as far as the FE workforce is concerned, we already have serious imbalances, with those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds representing eight per cent of the workforce, and less than five per cent of college principals.”

Cuts in FE employment will reduce the scope to redress the imbalances, he added.