Sixth form college staff to strike against 16-19 funding cuts in lead up to the budget

“Angry” sixth form college staff will hit the picket line tomorrow as they step up their protest against government funding cuts in the build up to next month’s budget.

National Education Union members from 34 sixth form colleges will be taking strike action.

Two further strikes will take place 27 February and 10 March. The action later this month will include a rally in central London.

The NEU says it is in dispute with the education secretary Gavin Williamson, rather than the colleges themselves, and is calling on the government to invest an extra £700 million into the sector.

It believes this is needed on top of the £400 million in additional funding promised for 16 to 19 education in August 2019, which the union has labelled as “grossly inadequate”.

Staff want to secure the funding to reverse job losses, class size increases, and cuts to teaching time and curriculum provision.

A survey by the Sixth Form Colleges Association last March found that nearly half of all colleges and schools with sixth forms have had to reduce student mental health and careers support in 2019.

It also found that over three quarters of respondents do not believe the amount of funding they will receive in 2020 will be sufficient to provide the support required by disadvantaged students.

The NEU has said if the “crisis” of 16 to 19 funding continues to go unaddressed, the future of the sector is “at threat and it is students’ education that will continue to suffer”. 

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The Conservatives have neglected 16 to 19 education and sixth form colleges in particular. No wonder our members are angry and determined to secure a properly funded post-16 sector for both students and staff.

“Gavin Williamson must take heed of this very real concern from a long-suffering sector and make the case to the chancellor and the prime minister that the budget on 11 March must include at the very least a £700 million injection of new money to close the gap with schools. Otherwise the crisis in 16 to 19 funding will continue.”

The NEU held sixth form college strikes in October, which included marching on the Department for Education and handing officials an invoice for £700 million (see picture).

The 34 sixth form colleges taking action are:

Bilborough College, Nottingham

Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College

Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College, Stockport

City & Islington Sixth Form College

Esher College

Hereford Sixth Form College

Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

King Edward VI College Stourbridge

Long Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

Longley Park Sixth Form College, Sheffield

Newham Sixth Form College

Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College, Leeds

Priestley College, Warrington

Reigate College

Richard Huish College, Taunton

Shrewsbury Colleges Group

Sir George Monoux College, Waltham Forest, London

St Brendan’s Sixth Form College, Bristol

St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College, Clapham, London

St John Rigby RC Sixth Form College, Wigan

The Brooke House Sixth Form College, Hackney, London

The Sixth Form College Solihull

Varndean College, Brighton

Gateway Sixth Form College, Leicester

WQE and Regent College Group, Leicester

Ashton Sixth Form College, Ashton-Under-Lyne

Coulsdon Sixth Form College

Havering Sixth Form College

King Edward VI College, Nuneaton

Peter Symonds College, Winchester

Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington

The Blackpool Sixth Form College

Thomas Rotherham College, Rotherham

Xaverian College, Manchester

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