Having spent more than seven happy years working for a large college in South East London I have seen first-hand the vital role they play in the education ecosystem.
So the Association of Colleges is to be applauded for rallying the further education sector at short notice to celebrate the work of colleges.
It was a brave decision to announce the plan for a whole week of activities with just a month’s notice, but coming days before the budget the timing is critical.
The message to the Chancellor and everyone around him should be three-fold:
Firstly, look at the amazing things colleges do in their communities to enhance the lives of young people and adults.
Secondly, the government’s own researchers consistently find that investing in colleges is good for businesses and the economy.
Thirdly, leaving funding rates unchanged since 2013, as costs continue to rise, simply reduces the impact of the two points above.
So the solution is simple and fair: Increase the funding rates.
So Colleges Week should be a big celebration, treading that fine line between showing off and highlighting the consequences of cuts.
It should not be angry, ugly or moany.
And calling it Colleges Week, focusing exclusively on colleges, is not to diminish the role of other FE sector providers, including local authority adult education services as well as private, third sector and not-for-profit providers.
Diversity of provider type is a strength in the further education sector.
Colleges play a unique role as large education institutions rooted in their communities, delivering the widest range of courses to the most diverse cohorts of learners.
Writing this week in FE Week, the Skills Minister rightly says: “this is a chance to celebrate the role colleges play in the country’s education system and the fantastic work that they do.”
So let’s all get behind Colleges Week, and encourage everyone we know to contact their local MP and get on social media to share stories about colleges that have made a positive difference to their lives.
FE Week will be producing a special Colleges Week supplement, in partnership with NOCN, so be sure to send pictures and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org