Members of the University and College Union (UCU) are warning of a crisis for Further Education which is having a direct financial impact on Bradford College. With massive debts already surrounding the college as well as no staff pay increases for the past ten years, the UCU are urging the people of Bradford to support their campaign to protect Bradford College. After meeting with Bradford West MP Naz Shah and picketing outside the college last week, the union have now written the following open letter to the residents of Bradford.
An Open Letter to the People of Bradford
We, the University and College Union (UCU) are calling upon the people of Bradford to support our campaign to Love FE and to protect Bradford College.
Last Wednesday and Thursday you will have seen pickets outside Bradford College. We want to explain why we were on strike and why we would like the people of Bradford to rally to support their college.
There is a crisis in Further Education. Nationally education is underfunded but this is particularly true in FE colleges. This is being felt nowhere as keenly as at Bradford College.
The Crisis in FE colleges:
FE colleges have seen decreased income but greater challenges.
Colleges have the ability to provide education to all sectors of the community and all ages.
They offer a wider curriculum than schools or sixth form colleges and help young people develop independence skills.
Qualifications for mature students can be studied whilst in employment. They work with employers and the community to respond to local need.
If you live in Bradford your car maintenance, plumbing, hairdressing, IT services, catering, dental or eye care will probably be provided by people who trained at Bradford College.
Bradford College works with learners living in difficult financial and emotional circumstances but receives no recognition of this. Whilst schools receive pupil premium to support students living in poverty, there is no additional funding for colleges.
Many older colleges have buildings that need refurbishment or rebuilding, there is no money available from government for these. Bradford College took out the largest bank loan available to it in order to build a new college site. This loan has led to a massive deficit but has not met the needs of learners and staff. Remodelling it is still required to improve the college facilities.
We need fair funding for courses, extension of funding streams such as pupil premium to colleges and money for improving college buildings.
Fair Pay for FE lecturers
College teaching staff earn on average £7000 less per year than those working in schools. This gap is widening year on year. There is no obligation on colleges to give pay awards to staff.
For the last 10 years Bradford College staff have not received a pay increase with the exception of 2015 /16 when 1% was reluctantly awarded after protracted negotiations. Many tutors in specialist areas such as Teacher Education take a pay cut to come and work at the college and then find that their pay declines in real terms every year. At the same time the college has increased its spending on senior management.
We need a system that delivers fair pay to FE college staff and ensures that all colleges pay annual pay awards.
Bradford needs Bradford College
Bradford College is essential in order to ensure improved employment prospects and the well-being of the Bradford area. It delivers education to thousands of young and mature learners, often providing opportunities and support they were not offered elsewhere.
Bradford has been designated as an Education Opportunity Area. It is difficult to see how opportunities can be created without ensuring a healthy, financially viable college. Rather than support the college’s central role to the region, the government has increased the marketisation of education in Bradford and has encouraged and supported new private providers to deliver provision to the detriment of the city of Bradford and its College.
Bradford College delivers courses to individuals, but it also trains the next generation of professionals working with young people. Teachers, nursery staff, social workers and youth workers all study at Bradford College. Bradford College has massive debts. A new management and governing body are attempting to turn this situation around but they are doing so within restrictions that do not meet staff and learner needs. A pay award is essential if the college is to keep and attract committed and talented teachers.
We want the government to intervene and restore the college to a financially stable condition so that staff are able to provide quality education to the people of Bradford.
We want people in Bradford get the best education and jobs they can. In order for this to happen the government needs to recognise the importance of FE colleges and fund them appropriately, intervening to put Bradford College back on a stable financial footing. We are asking Bradford residents to lobby their MPs (contact information below) and calling upon our local MPs and councillors to work with us to campaign for the FE provision that the people of Bradford need and deserve.
Chair. UCU Bradford College Branch