MPs are today (Thursday 7 September 2017) being warned that the funding crisis in post-16 education will mean further cuts to courses, rising class sizes and sixth form closures unless urgent action is taken.
The warning comes from three associations which represent sixth forms and colleges ahead of a debate this afternoon in Westminster Hall on 16 to 19 education funding.
And they are urging MPs from all parties to support their joint campaign to Support Our Sixth-formers.
The Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), and the Association of Colleges (AoC) are calling on the government to adopt the following recommendations:
Introduce a £200 per student uplift in funding to improve the education and support offered to sixth form students
Conduct a review of sixth form funding to ensure it is linked to the realistic costs of delivering a rounded, high-quality curriculum.
Spending on further education and sixth forms fell by 14% in real terms under the coalition government (Long-run comparisons of spending per pupil across different stages of education p19, Institute for Fiscal Studies), and rising costs are putting huge additional pressure on stretched budgets.
Sixth forms and colleges have already had to make severe cutbacks.
The associations warn that, without urgent action, there will be further cuts to courses, class sizes will continue to rise and school sixth forms in rural areas will simply disappear.
ASCL, SFCA and the AoC have launched the Support Our Sixth-formers campaign and our joint manifesto can be read here.
Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association said: “A period of prolonged underinvestment means that sixth formers in England are only funded to receive half the tuition time as sixth formers in other leading economies. There is now a 21% drop in education funding at the age of 16 that it is very difficult to justify - particularly as young people are required to participate in education and training until the age of 18.
“Without urgent investment, sixth form education in England will become an increasingly narrow and part time experience – that would be bad for students, bad for social mobility and bad for the economy.
“We urge the government to engage fully in the debate today and accept the recommendations in the Support Our Sixth-formers campaign.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said: “If the government is serious about improving social mobility it must invest more in post-16 education.
“Funding is so dire that courses with smaller intakes such as music and drama are in danger of disappearing from sixth forms and colleges, leaving them as the preserve of only those who can afford to pay for them privately.
“We have a proud tradition of offering our young people a broad and rich curriculum but the inevitable consequence of under investment is reduced subject choice and opportunities.
“We are pleased this issue is being debated today and we call on MPs of all parties to support our young people by backing our campaign for improved funding.”
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “Our young people are in danger of getting 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. That cannot be right.
“This is not just a funding issue, it’s a moral issue and should deeply concern every one of us. Young people deserve the right investment to support their ambitions and abilities.
“The Government has already made a welcome funding commitment to increase the teaching hours for the incoming T Levels, but this will only cover around 25% of 16 to 19-year-olds. The next step must be to address the unfairness for the majority of young students.”