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From The Socialist newspaper, 30 June 2009

National fight to defend education

Crisis looms in FE colleges

FURTHER EDUCATION (FE) colleges across the country are facing a major crisis over the next months and years. Government funding is changing and potentially huge cuts are looming. Cuts are falling right at the end of this term in most colleges. Every cut this year must be fought, but they are just a taster of what is looming next year.

Paula Mitchell

Even before this cuts crisis, funding through the Learning and Skills Council is always uncertain, meaning that colleges and staff cannot properly plan, and then face last-minute cuts. Mismanagement in many colleges has compounded the problem and meant even further cuts.

Some colleges face massive cuts this year. In Tower Hamlets, 40 full-time equivalent posts are to go, which could mean as many as 90 people losing their jobs. The cuts fall most heavily in the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) department, in a part of London with a diverse community and many people for whom English is not their home language. Yet, the college's management is to be increased by 15 and the principal earns around 160,000 a year.


The national rebuilding programme has been a fiasco. Urged on by the Learning and Skills Council, colleges everywhere made plans for new buildings, spending money on consultants and new designs. Hopes were raised of new facilities and resources.

But the reality has been a shambles. New buildings have proved too small for the job and without basic facilities such as staffrooms.

Even before most of the new building was underway, the plug has been pulled on the entire project. This leaves colleges having wasted huge amounts of money on planning. Some colleges had even knocked down old buildings, and are now housed in portable cabins with no prospect of a new building.

There may also need to be a fight on the pay award. College staff cannot allow managers to say 'choose job cuts or pay cuts'. The lesson from industry is that that does not work. In JCB, LDV and Visteon, and elsewhere workers agreed to concessions in the hope of saving the factories but the bosses still shut them down and made massive job cuts.

However, another lesson from industry is that a united fight of the workers can win. At the Lindsey oil refinery construction workers have won a second tremendous victory against the attempts by bosses to undermine trade union pay and conditions and victimise activists. Unofficial solidarity action spread across the country and swept aside the anti-trade union laws.

Staff and students cannot be left to fight on a college-by-college basis. On Friday 3 July, Hackney and Tower Hamlets colleges will be on strike, and the London region UCU has called on all FE colleges to hold lunch-time protests on this day.

This approach of action across London should be carried on over the summer to prepare for a united national fight in the autumn.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 30 June 2009:

Militant action pays!

Youth fight for jobs

Decent jobs not poverty schemes!

Socialist Party editorial

Victories show the way forward for struggles

Total's fat fingers in every pie

"We came out with Lindsey and we'll go back with Lindsey"

Socialist Party campaigns

New Labour's house building plans amount to just a drop in the ocean

Pride not profit - London Pride Saturday 4 July

Crisis looms in FE colleges

Tower Hamlets demo

Councils try to gag us

Campaign to save Lewisham Bridge school continuing

Fast news

BNP: Looking beneath the suits

National Shop Stewards Network

National Shop Stewards Network Conference Confident and enthusiastic

Socialist Party Marxist analysis

25 years ago: Liverpool - a city that dared to fight

Workplace news and events

Glasgow council: Social work dept staff start all-out strike

Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets march and rally

Construction industry in major crisis


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Related links:


triangleFighting government cuts to sixth form colleges: Picket line at City & Islington sixth form college, London, 12.2.20

triangleNEU members' sixth-form walkouts

triangleLondon: Showing solidarity with workers and youth on the mass demonstrations in Chile. 26.10.19

triangleTories prepare to attack education workers' pensions

triangleStourbridge: Keep our college!


triangleTory full return to school plans gamble with lives

triangleTowards an anti-racist school curriculum

triangleOppose the Welsh government's reckless return to school plan

triangleReject the university employers' offer on pay, workload and casualisation


triangleSixth-form strikers stand firm for increased funding

triangleUniversity and College Union: Pensions, pay and conditions dispute reach a crucial stage

triangleUCU strikes: more determined than ever


triangleReaders' opinion



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