Politics students visit Parliament to raise profile of their 40,000-signature college funding petition

18 October 2018

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List of names supporting the cause still growing…

Politics students from Brockenhurst College travelled to Parliament in Westminster on Monday to draw attention to their 40,000-signature petition calling for more government investment in colleges.

The petition highlights how government funding for colleges has been cut by almost 30% in real terms over the last ten years, while school sixth forms have been less affected.

This shortfall, petition organisers say, has led to significant financial pressures in further education colleges, ultimately leading to inequality.

A recent report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies stated that although two-thirds of students take their A Levels at a college, schools with sixth forms receive 8% more funding per student.

Nine Brock students made the trip to Parliament, where they met with local MP Dr Julian Lewis, who listened to their concerns and agreed to back their cause.

A week after starting the petition, signatories numbered over 25,000, exceeding the 10,000 names required for Parliament to respond.

Organisers said the goal now was to reach 100,000 signatures, which will mean the issue will be considered for parliamentary debate.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said the government recognised that pressures existed and said the issue would be looked at ahead of the next spending review.

Student Charlotte Jones, who started the petition, was interviewed live by Julian Clegg on BBC Radio Solent on Monday morning.

She said: “All we want is equality, and I think that’s fair to ask… If we all had equal funding, you know, it would be a fair playing field, and everyone would be on the same level.”

Some of the college-sector problems cited by the petition include a reduction in teaching resources, reduced course choice and pressures on staff pay and workload.

Brockenhurst College Principal Di Roberts CBE said: “We have increasingly found that our agility has been tested as an organisation to provide a consistently high standard of education and training for our students and apprentices.

“Over the last decade we have seen an ongoing lack of investment from the government.  We want to continue to invest in our facilities and our highly-skilled teachers and assessors, and we cannot do this without better funding.”

The petition was started ahead of Colleges Week, which this year takes place alongside a campaign for more funding, dubbed ‘Love Our Colleges’.

During the trip to Parliament, the Brockenhurst College students witnessed the Prime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons on the proposed customs backstop Brexit contingency plan.

They remained in the chamber to hear Theresa May answer questions from MPs, which resulted in some fiery exchanges.

Dr Julian Lewis said afterwards: “It was a great pleasure to welcome the students and staff from Brockenhurst College to Parliament. I was glad that they saw the exchanges with the Prime Minister and I shall certainly be pressing their case – which is very strong – with education ministers.”

He continued: “I also look forward to presenting a petition on the floor of the Houses of Parliament, drawing attention to the very large number of people who have signed the online petition which could lead to a parliamentary debate on this very important subject.”

You can find the petition online at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/229744