Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Article excerpt

One-off Esol funding for Syrian refugees or Muslim women may be well-intentioned, but before long a serious injection of cash will be needed to stop the whole system collapsing

For eager graduates seeking to make their fortune, the FE sector isn't an obvious port of call. Accordingly, the primary motivator of people working in the sector is rarely monetary.

In my experience, FE as a whole is instilled with a determination to do the best by the learners who enter its doors.

Even in a sector with financial troubles, cash-strapped institutions regularly dip into their own pockets for the benefit of their learners. In 2013-14, for instance, providers collectively delivered £65 million of adult skills training for which they were not paid. Eight ended up out of pocket by £1 million or more.

When colleges are faced with a choice between turning learners away or taking them in, but at a loss, it's not always the balance sheet that comes first. As the Association of Colleges said last year: "It's sometimes difficult for colleges to say no."

This is where the dilemma becomes murky. As Sarah Simons reports (see pages 46-47), there is a growing tendency for English for speakers of other languages (Esol) provision - acutely affected by funding cuts - to be topped up with volunteers. …

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