College budget slashed

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WIGAN and Leigh College is having its budget for 16 to 18-year-old students slashed by £2m.

College chiefs have revealed their allocation for courses for 16 to 18-year-olds has fallen to £13.1m for the next academic year – a 13 per cent reduction – as part of ongoing Government cutbacks.

More than 70 college staff have already lost their jobs in the last six months, and the announcement of further funding cuts has prompted fears that more workers will be axed.

The college today said that, despite facing huge financial challenges, it planned to maintain its current number of student places for young people in the borough.

A statement from the college said: “Wigan and Leigh College’s core allocation for 16 to 18-year-old learners will be £13.1m in 2011/12, a reduction of £2m compared to 2010/11.

“Despite this, the college will not be cutting the level of funded provision offered to young people in the borough.

“Allocations for adult learning in 2011/12 are broadly the same as in 2010/11, totaling about £8.5m.

“This will enable the college to continue offering at least the same level of provision, and possibly more.

“The college is planning to at least maintain its current total student numbers, although the loss of income stated previously has meant that we have had to review all college costs to ensure that our services are offered as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“Redundancy exercises have been undertaken over the last six months to bring our costs in line with our future funding, and this has led to 78 redundancies.

“However, these staff reductions are designed to make the college a more efficient organization, and will not have a detrimental impact on the learner experience.”

Wigan and Leigh College received its budget allocation from two Government funding bodies, the Young People Learning Agency (YPLA) and Skills Funding Agency (SFA).

Funding for adult courses has escaped the axe for the next academic year, although £500,000 was cut from its budget in 2010/11 - a reduction of 10 per cent.

The college said the majority of redundancies have been support workers and a review of staff levels will be conducted after student enrolment is completed in September.

A college statement added: “The Government agenda now focuses on developing vocational skills of the borough’s young people and adults, and the college is ready to respond to the challenges that will face all educational institutions seeking to provide excellent education and training in a cost effective way.

“The college’s course provision for next year will be an excellent response to these challenges, and will continue to offer excellent teaching and learning.

“Our first rate staff will give students the skills to progress in education and then to find jobs in times of increasing unemployment. 

“The college will support the unemployed to get the skills that employers want to help them get back into work.”

Principal Cath Hurst said: “The college is committed to addressing the needs of our learners and employers. This year we are now offering courses in horticulture and motor vehicle air conditioning units and a wide range of apprenticeships are also being offered in IT, Media, Retail, Sales and Management that can now be offered to any age of learner in employment.

“In Leigh, courses have expanded at our new stadium centre in Maths, English and English as a second language. However, some courses no longer attract Government funding but can be employer funded.”

The college is holding its first ever festival at its Wigan sites on June 11 for students and staff to share their aspects of college life with the local community.

For more information on courses at Wigan and Leigh College, contact 01942 761111.