Northampton principal warns of long-term threat to colleges if Government funding is frozen

Pat Brennan-Barrett says she may not be able to attract enough teachers to Northampton College if funding remains frozen
Pat Brennan-Barrett says she may not be able to attract enough teachers to Northampton College if funding remains frozen

The principal of Northampton College says courses that provide vital jobs across the country are under threat from frozen Government funding.

Funding for 16 to 18-year-old college students last increased in 2010, during which time costs such as utilities and pensions have risen dramatically.

It means that Northampton College needs £720 more per pupil to bridge the gap, with principal Pat Brennan-Barrett saying the situation is nearing a "cliff edge" for institutions across the country.

She said: "At the moment, I'm watching every penny.

"Long term, the impact is that we can't afford to run certain courses, we mightn't be able to attract the right staff into our courses."

Since the last funding increase for colleges, universities have had a 22 per cent rise and schools have received grants for teacher pay rises

Wages for college teachers are now £7,000 behind their contemporaries in schools - and it is that fact which may imperil some courses at Northampton College.

She said: "A really good example is engineering and construction. You can earn a lot of money in industry and, at the end of the day, if we can't pay those salaries to attract those people we then can't run the courses."

Mrs Brennan-Barrett said she worries about the local skills shortage in key industries, which is already pronounced, becoming significantly worse as the flow of workers from other European countries dries up.

"We know there's a skills shortage in construction and engineering, IT, creative industries, health and social care and childcare," she said. "We've got 900 students in creative industries, 800 in health and social care and childcare, 700 in construction and engineering; IT about 300.

"That's our skills for the future and the schools can't do that.

"Who is going to pick up the skills gap after Brexit? Schools cannot do that."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said it is spending on colleges may be subject to change in 2020.

She said: "We recognise that the financial position for colleges is challenging and are looking carefully at the needs of further education in the run-up to the next spending review.”