THIRTY-FOUR sixth form colleges are on strike today to demand more funding for their students and their colleges.
Nine colleges are joining the strike action for the first time, having recently been re-balloted. They are: Ashton-under-Lyne, Coulsdon, Havering, Nuneaton, Winchester, Darlington, Blackpool, Rotherham and Manchester.
This means that members in 38% of all sixth form colleges and 16-19 academies are taking action together.
There is currently an overall £700 million shortfall in funding for Post-16 Education.
Teaching staff numbers and support staff posts have fallen significantly due to the real-terms cuts, while at the same time student numbers have risen. This is putting the future of sixth form colleges under serious threat. If the crisis continues to go unaddressed, it is students’ education that will continue to suffer.
NEU members are taking action to secure the funding needed to reverse job losses, class size increases, and cuts to teaching time and curriculum provision. They also want to sustain fair pay and their conditions of employment.
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘NEU members in sixth form colleges have a very clear message for government, and their anger is growing.
‘Each day they see the effects of shameful cuts to 16-19 funding, which have gone on much longer and much deeper than in any other school sector.
‘In this election we are arguing the case for education. With today’s strike, members are amplifying that message.
‘They are telling government and the general public that sixth form colleges are on their knees. Serious investment is needed urgently to ensure that it can remain the “jewel in the crown” of the education sector.
‘Meeting the £700m shortfall for Post-16 would be a good start.
‘The public are not easily fooled by warm words and empty promises. They will look closely at manifestos and carefully weigh up the education pledges of each party. They know that if you value education, you must vote for education.’
The initial NEU sixth form colleges ballot closed on 16 September and five out of six members voted to take action – 84% voted Yes to action and Yes to saving the sixth form sector. Overall, there was a 43% turnout.
There was strike action in the 25 colleges that reached the 50% turnout threshold. 23 took part in strikes on 17 October and 5th November: Among them were Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College; City & Islington Sixth Form College; Esher College; Newham Sixth Form College; Sir George Monoux College, Walthamstow, London; St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College, Clapham, London; The Brooke House Sixth Form College, Hackney, London; and Varndean College, Brighton.