College staff from Hartlepool are set to march on London today to protest at Government funding levels.
Hartlepool College of Further Education is set to be represented on the march at Westminster will see college principals, learners and education unions join forces outside Parliament.
Further education and sixth form colleges from across the North East are supporting the campaign, including East Durham College, Hartlepool College of Further Education, and Sunderland College, which has merged with Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
Darren Hankey, principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education, said three or four coach loads of demonstrators are due to travel from the Tees Valley.
He is urging people to sign an online petition calling for an increase in college funding to sustainable levels.
Mr Hankey said: “A report of the Government’s Business, Innovation and Skills department previously showed for every £1 invested in education it returns £20 to the economy.
“For me further education is an investment not a cost.
“I don’t think the further education sector has been as galvanised as we have for this campaign.”
Today’s march is a central part of the first national Colleges Week where colleges are hosting events to showcase all they do and raise awareness of the funding challenges.
Mr Hankey also highlighted a report of the Institute for Fiscal Studies which showed further education funding had increased by only around 10% since 1990.
“You don’t have to be an economist to know that’s just not good enough,” said Mr Hankey.
He added that UK students are being left behind in comparison to those in Europe who receive 20 to 25 hours of teaching a week compared to around 15 here.
He added: “Compared to our European counterparts they are losing out.
“If there is less money coming into any given college there is less we can do.”
The college employers’ body the Association of Colleges is campaigning for a 5% a year funding increase for the next five years.
As part of Colleges Week, Mr Hankey is due to meet on Friday with Hartlepool MP Mike Hill, along with Stephen Hammond, head of English Martyrs Sixth Form College, and the head of Hartlepool Sixth Form College Mark Hughes.
MP Robert Halfon, who chairs the Commons Education Committee, has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond ahead of this month’s budget asking the Chancellor to “look very carefully” at further education funding.
Anyone who wants to sign the online petition can find it at www.petition.parliament.uk/petitions/229744