Furness College Principal and Chief Executive Professor Andrew Wren

College head gives pre-election ‘wish list’

The head of Cumbria’s biggest college has given his ‘wish list’ for the future of education in the county a week ahead of the General Election.

Furness College Principal and Chief Executive Andrew Wren says education will be a key voter issue as the nation goes to the polls on Thursday and more funding is needed for the college sector.

He said Cumbria’s geography mean colleges are inevitably smaller and that needs to be recognised with additional funding.

“We face a unique set of challenges here in one of the largest counties. We have so many rural areas it means the catchment of our colleges is smaller and it is much more difficult to have the economies of scale of larger colleges.

“Capital investment into colleges in Cumbria must keep up with that into industry because, unlike schools, colleges must be self-funded.”

Mr Wren said with an ageing population, there was a growing gap of high-level skills and young people needed training to meet that gap and enable the county to prosper.

“In addition to enabling younger people to get the skills they need to become the county’s future workforce, we also need to ensure adults have access to retraining courses so they can meet the changing needs of industry.”

He said a recent national review into post-18 education funding showed a powerful case for change in the further education sector because it has been ignored by a succession of governments.
“We hope that the £3billion suggested will be taken up by the next government and used for the benefit of all learners.”

Mr Wren said the Ofsted issue was being used as a ‘political football’ by the parties and that the sector would always require a fair and consistent inspection body to drive up standards.

“No system of inspection is perfect,” he said. “But as the current system is reviewed it must ensure any pressure put on teachers is minimised to retain current educators and not to deter new entrants to the profession.

“The key to success is being realistic about what can be achieved and consistent in the approach.”

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