National Education Union members working Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College (BHASVIC) and Varndean College will be taking their second day of strike action on 5 November to defend their pay, working conditions and employment. Cuts to 16-19 funding have been deeper and have gone on for longer than any other school sector with 22% cuts compared to the 8% suffered by schools.
The NEU is arguing for the pay of Sixth Form College teachers and support staff to be restored to match that in schools, and for action on workload and job losses caused by underfunding. The number of sixth form colleges has fallen from 92 to just 53 in the last few years and will continue to fall as a result of forced mergers with general FE colleges caused by the funding squeeze. FE colleges pay their staff, on average, around £7000 per year less.
There is an overall £700 million shortfall in funding for Post 16 Education. This affects adversely our members’ working conditions and our students’ education in this highly successful sector and is putting the future of Sixth Form Colleges under serious threat. The two Sixth Form Colleges in Brighton & Hove together have lost a total of £1.4 million in real terms since 2016, a cut of around £350 per student or 9% (www.schoolcuts.org.uk). And, unlike schools both public & private, Sixth Form Colleges have to pay VAT. The result of this is that jobs are being lost, class sizes are increasing, workload is increasing and the range of courses on offer is reducing.
NEU members are taking action to secure the funding needed to sustain fair pay and conditions of employment; to reverse job losses, class size increases and cuts to teaching time and curriculum provision.
A spokesperson for the National Education Union, said:
“The Brighton & Hove Sixth Form Colleges provides a highly valued and much needed education service to Greater Brighton & Hove as well as East & West Sussex. Sixth Form Colleges have always been a beacon of excellence, but funding cuts have imperilled this and driven far too many colleges towards merger or closure.
“Strike action is always a last option but our members believe that it is necessary in order to encourage a resolution to our dispute and help save the sector. This will ensure future generations have the choice and opportunity for study that our local sixth form colleges provide.
“With a General Election on the 12 December we also want prospective parliamentary candidates to support our call for much higher funding of Sixth Form Colleges as a priority for their party.
The NEU sixth form colleges ballot closed on 16 September and five out of six members voted to take action – 84% of members voted Yes to action and Yes to saving the sixth form sector. Nationally, there was a 43% turnout and there will be strike action in the 25 colleges that reached the 50% turnout threshold.