ESCH Colleges Week web

Students at East Sussex College have been getting behind a national campaign to call for better funding and fair pay for Further Education (FE) colleges.

The ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign, which was launched on Monday 15th October, celebrates National Colleges Week and aims to secure more money for FE colleges.

Over the last decade, colleges have faced up to 30% in funding cuts, whilst operational costs have increased dramatically. This has resulted in fewer learning opportunities, a decrease in teaching hours and support for students, and no increase in pay for teachers and support staff for several years.

Love College

Students at the college have been recording messages to pledge their support to the campaign to call for a 5% increase in funding from the government and explain to MPs why their college is so important to them.

Debra Bostock is a mature student who is studying Level 3 Hairdressing and says that college will help her to get back into work.

“I was a little bit lost and wasn’t sure what direction to take to get back into work. I have been a mum for quite a long time, so really didn’t have a clue on how to get myself up and going again. College has given me the opportunity to refresh my skills, meet new people, given me valuable experience, and above all, given me the confidence to go back to work. It has put me back on track.”

Connor Brown is a BA (Hons) Fine Art student with cerebral palsy and says that the college has given him opportunities he wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“Since being at college, I have had some great opportunities to support my learning. I’ve been able to visit lots of art galleries in London, such as the Tate modern, and I don’t think I wouldn’t have had the chance to visit these places by myself.”

Abbie Bowers is an A-Level student with the ambition to become a teacher.

“College allows me to delve deeper into topics that I enjoy and it gives me the opportunity to do what I want to do in the future. My goal is to become a teacher, so I have to have college to help me get there.”

Zak Prevett, a Level 3 Public Services student, really enjoys learning outside of the classroom.

“Since I have been at college we have had the chance to experience lots of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and rock climbing. I’ve also had the chance to undertake a month-long work experience placement in Seville, which was incredible.”

Cheree Cornford is studying a Level 2 Health and Social Care course and says that college has given her confidence and helped her to decide what she wants to do in the future.

“If I didn’t have the opportunity to come to college then I wouldn’t be able to gain the experience and knowledge I need to pass my course and I wouldn’t be able to work towards the career that I want.”

East Sussex College plays a vital part in helping almost half of the young people in East Sussex to learn through top-class technical and A-Level education. However, the discrepancy in funding presents two major issues for the college.

Clive Cooke, CEO, East Sussex College, said: “Our young people are being short-changed compared with their counterparts in other countries and compared with previous generations. The hours of teaching and support, the choice they have, and the enrichment they are offered have all reduced as funding cuts have bitten. It is also a real challenge for us to pay competitive enough salaries to recruit staff in key subjects such as maths, science, engineering, and computing. This cannot continue if we are to secure the future of our nation.”

CEO, Clive Cooke, has also written a letter to the local MPs in East Sussex to highlight the years of funding cuts and invite them to visit the college’s campuses during the Open Events to see the valuable work that they do.

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges, said: “Every single day colleges like East Sussex College provide a world class education and transform the lives of millions of people. Colleges Week is an opportunity to celebrate the brilliant things that go on and a chance to showcase the brilliant staff that make it possible. It is simple, if we want a world-class education system then we need to properly invest in it.”

Students from Brockenhurt College have also stated a petition to push for more funding. If the petition hits 10,000 signatures the government must respond to it, and if it reaches 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament. You can sign the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/229744

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