The head of Cumbria’s biggest college has called on the next Government to plough more funding into the county’s college sector.

In a “wish list” ahead of the General Election, Furness College principal and chief executive Andrew Wren also said inspection body Ofsted was being used as a “political football” by the parties targeting voters as they prepare to head for the polls.

Stressing that education will be a key voter issue, Mr Wren, said Cumbria’s challenging geography meant colleges are inevitably smaller than elsewhere in the UK and, as a result, required more funding firepower.

“We face a unique set of challenges here in one of the largest counties,” he said.

“We have so many rural areas it means the catchment of our colleges is smaller and it is much more difficult to have the economies of scale of larger colleges.

“Capital investment into colleges in Cumbria must keep up with that into industry because, unlike schools, colleges must be self-funded.”

Mr Wren said with an ageing population, there was a growing gap of high-level skills and young people needed training to meet that gap and enable the county to prosper.

“In addition to enabling younger people to get the skills they need to become the county’s future workforce, we also need to ensure adults have access to retraining courses so they can meet the changing needs of industry.”

On Ofsted, Mr Wren said the sector would always require a fair and consistent inspection body to drive up standards.

“No system of inspection is perfect,” he said.

“But as the current system is reviewed it must ensure any pressure put on teachers is minimised to retain current educators and not to deter new entrants to the profession.”