City of Bristol College, rated “inadequate” by Ofsted earlier this year, has been revealed to have lost students’ work thereby costing them their qualifications. Formal complaints have been made about an animal management course first offered in 2011 which was originally supposed to last six-weeks, until the college realised that the course could not be covered in less than one academic year, which was later extended to a two year in-depth course.

Students at the college have described the course as “a shambles” and one student pointed out the impact this mess has had on her future. She said “I’ve got to rethink everything I’m going to do now because five years have passed and I’m not where I could have been.”

This revelation comes as the college enters another year of severe financial difficulty. Already it has closed a campus and sacked large numbers of staff. It needs to find millions of pounds worth of savings in order to stay afloat. Inevitably such measures will crush staff morale and lead to overworked teachers. More mistakes and lost work seems inevitable under these conditions.

Earlier this year the college appointed Lee Probert as Principal and Chief Executive. Probert sits on the Council of the Confederation of British Industry in the South West and was the Chair of the Board of Directors of Sirius Academy – part of a huge multi-academy trust which administers a number of educational institutions. In other words Probert comes from a background of business and profit-making, with a track record of administering the transition towards privatised education via academies. For those who want decent, free education for the public good, this does not bode well.

In its report and financial statement from July 2015, the college identifies government policy as a major reason why they face big financial difficulties. When the government is cutting or threatening to cut support and grants for students in education it can lead to lower recruitment and retention of students by colleges such as City of Bristol, which in turn costs the college money.

But this also points to a bigger problem, which is that education at all levels is crying out for investment, in much the same way as other public services such as the NHS. It is not just a question of protecting education from further cuts, but actually finding the money for a massive increase in spending on schools, colleges and universities.

Big businesses have been profiting from public investment in education for decades. Today they sit on that cash, refuse to pay taxes on it, and then complain about the lack of well qualified British people entering the workforce. We should get serious about funding education that is decent and free for all. The money is there, but it needs to be taken out of the hands of the rich, which can be done by nationalising their businesses without compensation and expropriating their wealth, Then we could democratically plan for massive investment in education and from there begin to assert democratic control over the economy as a whole. These are important first steps towards the socialist transformation of society.

by Marxist Student Federation


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