South Essex College responds to government cuts

SOUTH Essex College will safeguard the quality of teaching and learning despite the latest round of Government funding cuts, insists Principal and Chief Executive, Angela O’Donoghue.

Angela said: “These are difficult times, but our focus and our top priority is our students. None of us will allow Government funding cuts to prevent this College from offering a fantastic education to the thousands of people who walk through our doors every year.”

The College has published a new strategy, called Management of Change, as it seeks to minimise the impact of austerity measures on frontline staff.

Like all colleges in the country, South Essex College, which has campuses in Basildon, Southend and Thurrock, has seen funding cuts over the last two academic years. It has had its budget reduced over that period by £4.9 million, with a further £3.7 million in 2013-14. More cuts are expected the following year.

The College’s total budget is £43.2 million and it is graded as ‘outstanding’ by the Skills Funding Agency for its financial health.

Angela said: “Public sector cuts are now starting to impact significantly on colleges and the next few years will prove to be an extremely testing time for the College and our staff. We will need to make significant savings next year and possibly the year after, in order to maintain our outstanding financial health.

“I am absolutely determined that these funding cuts will not have an impact on the quality of education in the classroom. We plan to grow our student numbers over the coming years in order to meet the needs of our communities and businesses.

“That is why I want to be totally transparent about the decisions we have to make. The current position in the sector is unprecedented and it is vital that we address these funding issues quickly and efficiently. We will make sure every single penny of Government funding we have goes towards better futures for our young people and better careers for our mature students.”

The Management of Change Strategy includes a voluntary redundancy programme for staff. In order to preserve jobs, the College proposes to cap salaries for teaching staff and freeze pay for a year.

The College has almost 1200 members of staff, both full and part-time, and it is proposed that there will be reduction in up to 76 management posts to limit the impact on frontline teachers. The additional learning support team will also be restructured with a proposed new structure shared with affected staff today (Monday 20 May).

“We want to avoid compulsory redundancies at all costs,” added Angela. “A 30 day consultation starts today, and we will work with the unions to engage in real dialogue around the proposals. I am holding staff meetings, two at each site, this week to talk through the document and answer any questions.”

Angela was clear that the new build programme, which is funded separately, will go ahead as planned, with the Thurrock Campus due to open in September 2014.

“The College cannot stand still. The new campus in Thurrock, and plans in Basildon, will enable the College to grow in the future, offering state-of-the-art facilities, increased space and equipment to meet the demands of our growing communities and to support economic growth.”

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