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Strikes at Shrewsbury colleges over higher education funding

By Charlotte Bentley | Shrewsbury | Education | Published:

Picket lines were set up at a college in Shrewsbury as part of a national strike over further education funding.

Campaigners outside English Bridge Campus in Shrewsbury taking part in the National Education Union strike

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) from Shrewsbury Colleges Group took part in a national strike over cuts in education funding across the country and its effect on students.

Members said they were striking on Thursday morning to defend their pay, working conditions and employment in colleges and sixth forms.

Jean Evanson, who is on the National Executive of the Union for post-16 education, said they are striking for students as well as members.

"Since 2010 post-16 colleges have lost over 25 per cent of funding and that has had a detrimental effect on work and pay and of course on students learning conditions," she said.

"The union has had a campaign for years in which we have highlighted that our sector is being attacked disproportionately. But of course, every education cut is a cut that hurts our students as well.

"There are 25 colleges taking part across the country with four in the West Midlands. There will also be a big demonstration in London this week."

Kit Armstrong, Regional Secretary for the National Education Union, said: "Union members are delivering an invoice to the Department of Education. We are requesting £700 million in post-16 funding to reverse the cuts over the last nine years."

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James Staniforth, Principal of Shrewsbury Colleges Group, said: "“This is a national dispute between the NEU and the Secretary of State for Education and is in relation to the pay, working conditions and security of employment of NEU members in the sixth form college sector.

"Although we believe these issues should be addressed by the Secretary of State through increasing funding, the college cannot condone any disruption to our students’ education. 

"The government announced some additional funding for sixth form education in August and are unlikely to make any further changes before Brexit is concluded and/or there is a general election. 

"Although further funding is necessary, Shrewsbury Colleges Group has always budgeted so that staff have received the national pay award agreed between the Sixth Form College Association and the unions. 

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"We have also taken a number of steps to reduce work load and to support staff well-being. We have not made any teachers redundant."

Mr Staniforth also stressed that the college and its services remained open during the strikes and they communicated with parents and carers about them.

Campaigners set up picket lines at the London Road, English Bridge and the Welsh Bridge campuses.

Hereford Sixth Form College and King Edward VI College in Stourbridge also took part in the national strikes.

Charlotte Bentley

By Charlotte Bentley
Community Reporter - @CharlotteB_Star

Community Reporter at the Shropshire Star, helping under-represented communities to find a voice in Shropshire and Mid Wales. Contact me at charlotte.bentley@shropshirestar.co.uk.

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