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Prime Minister urged to address under-funding

19 June 2019

Students are in danger of being ill-prepared for employment if funding challenges aren’t addressed, according to college leaders across England. Principals and chairs from 141 colleges across England have written to the Prime Minister to call for extra funding to support students aged 16 to 19. The Prime Minister is urged to address the under-funding which 16 to 19-year-olds have faced for a number of years. The letter states: “Our students are now in danger of studying an impoverished curriculum, which has already reduced in breadth and choice, and cannot prepare our young people to take their place in employment and compete in a global economy.” In England, the current base funding level for 16 to 18-year-olds is £4,000 per year. This decreases to £3,300 at 19-years-old. This funding covers around 600 teaching hours per year – equivalent to around 15 hours per week, according to the Sixth Form Colleges Association. This compares poorly when compared to countries such as Denmark, which has a minimum number of 26 teaching hours per week, the Netherlands which provides 1,000 hours per year and Norway which offers 980 guided learning hours per year. Alison Birkinshaw, President of the Association of Colleges and Principal of York College, said: “Our young people are being short-changed compared with their counterparts in other countries and compared with previous generations. The hours of teaching and support, the choice they have and the enrichment they are offered have all reduced as funding cuts have bitten. This cannot continue if we are to secure the future of our nation.” College leaders are asking for an immediate £200 uplift to the base funding rate per student. This will help to maintain the breadth of provision and help attracted and retain teachers and trainers. David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “This is not just a funding issue, it’s a moral issue and should deeply concern every one of us. How can we expect our young people, whether at school or college, to get the support and education they need to progress in their chosen path without the right investment? The Government has already made a welcome funding commitment to increase the teaching hours for the incoming T Levels, but this will cover only around 25% of 16 to 19-year-olds. The next step must be to address the unfairness for the majority of young students.” The Association of Colleges is working with other organisations, including the Association of School and College Leaders, Sixth Form Colleges Association and the National Union of Students to highlight the issue ahead of the Autumn Budget.