By Callum Morton – Liberal Youth Campaigns Officer
When I first got involved in Liberal Youth over 4 years ago, I never thought we’d have a day to focus on a Further Education issue. Back then all we talked about was tuition fees, and we have done for years.
Further Education is known as the ‘Cinderella Sector’, because of its relentless ability to offer adults the opportunity to go back into education to relearn, retrain and reskill. On the whole this happens as a result of the education sector letting them down in the past. But it’s bizarrely the sector least talked about- even politicians don’t know a great deal about it and tend to ignore the students within it. The abolition of Educational Maintenance Allowance based on flawed research and a lack of thought for the consequences symbolised this.
FE should be being talked about. It houses apprenticeships, Work Based Learning, Access to HE courses, ESOL, construction, plumbing, fashion design, hair & beauty, theatre studies, technical theatre, music – and all the other things vital to our economy that schools just don’t have the capability or drive to teach.
And from the reaction I got yesterday, many Liberal Youth members agree with me. From messages of support for Liberal Youth’s call for a pause in the FE Loans scheme to others not agreeing with the policy, but still getting in touch to say that serious debate over Further Education has been a long time coming. This message of support from a Liberal Youth member put it very well:
Although we may need a change in policy at a later stage to scrap FE fees, a lobbying day of action on Further Education has certainly been needed. I’ve been to a FE College and have been frustrated at the lack of focus on that education sector. It made me feel left out and unrepresented by Liberal Youth and society as a whole. I’m glad that finally Liberal Youth is starting to shape the debate on FE.
Yesterday represented a shift in Liberal Youth’s focus, towards representing all our members, not just those in Higher Education. It means we can undercut other political youth wings by recruiting new members from the FE sector, and it means an added focus on Votes at 16. A special thanks to everyone who got in touch with their MPs yesterday. Doing so increased the importance of Further Education in the eyes of politicians, and raised awareness of the serious problems with the FE Loans Scheme.
The #FEparty has started.
You can find Callum him on Facebook or tweet @callum_morton.