Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Jobs under Threat amid Acute Funding Pressures

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Jobs under Threat amid Acute Funding Pressures

Article excerpt

Nearly a third of colleges are considering compulsory redundancies, survey reveals

One in five English colleges is budgeting to operate at a deficit this year, while a third expect to make compulsory redundancies in the next 12 months, TES can reveal.

The stark figures, from an Association of Colleges (AoC) survey carried out in partnership with TES, lay bare the financial difficulties that are forcing colleges across the country to look at ways of reducing their staff numbers.

While there was widespread relief across the sector when chancellor George Osborne announced in November that the adult FE budget would be protected in cash terms for the next four years, the survey shows that colleges remain under acute funding pressures.

Of the 110 principals who took part in the poll (a third of all those in England), 46 per cent were planning for staff restructuring. Some 30 per cent said they anticipated making compulsory redundancies in the next 12 months, with 31 per cent intending to seek applications for voluntary redundancies.

Only 14 per cent of colleges said they were planning no changes to their workforce at this stage, while similar proportions said they were intending to increase their workforce through a recruitment drive (15 per cent) or merger (14 per cent).

Rising payroll bill

Some 38 per cent of principals who took part in the poll said that funding uncertainty was their main concern. Other major worries included area reviews (22 per cent) and GCSE English and maths resits (15 per cent).

In addition, 20 per cent said they were budgeting for their college to operate at a deficit for 2015-16. For 2016-17, this proportion dropped to 15 per cent (see graph, above right).

Gerry McDonald, principal at Tower Hamlets College in East London, said financial uncertainty was his biggest concern because of rising pension and National Insurance costs. These are expected to increase colleges' payroll bill by as much as 5 per cent. "If the funding rates were adequate, you would not see the sector in this position," he said. "This is not a sector that wastes money. It is already very lean. The only way for us to save money in future is to stop doing things completely."

Jonathan Simons, head of education at the Policy Exchange thinktank, told TES that even though colleges were agile in responding to government policy, "it could just be that you can't cut your cloth that quickly". …

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