New College Stamford principal calls for parity in how education is funded

Janet Meenaghan, the new prinicpal at New College Stamford'Photo: David Pearson EMN-150915-145145001
Janet Meenaghan, the new prinicpal at New College Stamford'Photo: David Pearson EMN-150915-145145001
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The new principal of Stamford’s only further education college has called on the Government to rethink how it funds education.

Janet Meenaghan, who took over at New College Stamford this September, wants people to write to their MP before the outcome of a spending review on November 25 to call for fairer funding for 16 to 18-year-olds. She hopes to appeal in particular to constituents of Nick Boles (Con), who is also minister for business, innovation, skills and education.

Mrs Meenaghan said further education had suffered 27 per cent funding cuts in real terms between 2010 and this year.

“I understand that the Government has priorities and is trying to cut the deficit. All parts of the public sector have a role to play.

“But we are taking a very unfair share of the funding cuts,” she added.

Part of the problem is the discrepancy between funding for further and higher education. According to statistics from the Association of Colleges, Government funding provided to colleges for a student aged 16 to 17 is just less than half what universities would get for a student aged 19 to 21. But this does not reflect the cost of further education.

“Teaching hours are higher than in higher education but we get about half as much in funding,” said Mrs Meenaghan. “We are taking a much bigger share of the job to sort out the deficit and it’s unfair.”

Figures showing the financial health of UK colleges reveal that most are now operating at a one per cent deficit, as opposed to a 2.5 per cent surplus in 2010. Mrs Meenaghan can only see the decline continuing under the current funding arrangements.

She said: “Two things are happening. All this money is coming out but we are still being expected to do more. In taking on English and maths GCSEs we have been asked to correct something the schools have found difficult to do over 10 years of education.

“This is not a criticism of schools; we know how hard they work to get pupils through maths and English.

“We have risen to the challenge. Our results in those subjects are between 20 and 40 per cent higher than the national average. But it’s all against a backdrop where things are starting to become unsustainable.

Mrs Meenaghan referred to a paper written by Professor Alison Wolf, a labour market expert from King’s College London, which also said the continuing cuts to further education funding were unsustainable.

Speaking to the Mercury, Professor Wolf said: “We have created a completely irrational system for funding education and training.”

She added: “The Government wants more 16 to 18-year-olds to do high quality apprenticeships, but that needs time off the job, in college, with proper equipment and proper teaching. Where is the money?”

New College Stamford is among more than 100 colleges to have written to the Prime Minister asking him to reconsider further cuts. And Mrs Meenaghan has appealed to Mercury readers to write to their own MP and ask them to do the same.