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Funds found for college students
EVERY High Needs Student who was accepted on to study programmes at Swindon College has been given the green light to start their study next week, after a summer of negotiations over funding.
At the start of July there were still 52 students waiting to hear where and if they would be studying in September, after a disagreement between the college and Swindon Council over their additional learning needs.
The council ultimately agreed to fund three more of the students, but the remaining 49 have finally had their places confirmed after college officials agreed to dip into a surplus in their budget to cover the costs.
Amanda Burnside, the senior manager of additional learning support at Swindon College, said it was good news for the students and college, but the budget adjustment was not a sustainable solution for years to come.
“This will have an impact on investment the college can make elsewhere,” she said. “Instead of spending as much on estates and maintenance, we have to meet these learning support costs.
“It is a balancing act, of course. We will have to look for a more sustainable solution going forward.
“We will be working very closely with the local authority to find a solution for the future.”
The college has committed itself to funding these 49 students before calculating exactly how much money it needs to reassign from the existing college budget.
With students enrolling this week and lessons starting next week, Mrs Burnside has said she and her colleagues still need to look into how they can best deliver these learning support packages in a cost-effective way.
“We are still calculating the overall cost at the moment as we review all support packages at the college,” said Mrs Burnside.
“These students won’t achieve without the right support. “This support allows them to access everything our teaching offers them. We will be creative with costing the packages, but we won’t cut back on what they need to save costs.”
The finances will be drawn from the college’s operating surplus. Colleges work towards building an operating surplus in order to achieve a higher grade from national inspectors on their financial health.
There are inspections of finances, and this budget reassignment is likely to affect the grade the college receives for its financial health.
“You want to be delivering excellent teaching and good financial health,” said Amanda.
“We will offset the cost against existing college budgets and hope to build a more sustainable future going forward. It was always the aim to accept every student possible into the college, so we are pleased to have accommodated those final 49.”