AoC's 2015 Spending Review submission explains that large cuts to post-16 education could be self-defeating for the government's own objectives to improve the system and raise productivity. The Treasury has set a target for £20 billion in savings by 2019. For unprotected budgets this implies average 30% cuts. This would come on top of a 27% real-term cut in government funding to colleges in the last five years.
Our submission makes 10 recommendations to government for the spending review, outlined below. The paper:
- highlights a number of areas in the education system where savings can be made
- comments on the national programme of area reviews
- urges action to extend student loans and implement the apprenticeship levy
- Funding for the education of 16 to 18-year-olds should be the same as that provided for the education of 14 to 16-year-olds. This would reflect costs, ensure the best A Level and technical courses are available, ensure students achieve good English and maths results and reduce student drop-out.
- Three-year funding allocations should be introduced for colleges, reflecting the spending review period.
- Schools and colleges should be asked to consider merging their sixth forms with a view to no sixth form having fewer than 250 students.
- Government is encouraging colleges to merge in order to make long-term savings. The short-term costs of such mergers should be met by Government.
- HM Treasury should cut the VAT on all sixth form education and should reduce public sector pension costs.
- People aged between 19 and 24 should be able to get a loan to help them fund a college course in the same way as their counterparts in university.
- Government should introduce a formula which funds adult further education on the basis of outcome agreements. These agreements would be drawn up by colleges and set out objectives agreed with local partners including councils, combined authorities and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs).
- The apprenticeship levy should be set at 0.5% of payroll costs, paid by all public and private organisations with more than 250 employees and used to support high quality training.
- Government should introduce long-term initiatives to help colleges recruit English and maths teachers.
- Government should rationalise and clarify the roles of the Education Funding Agency (EFA), Skills Funding Agency (SFA), Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the FE Commissioner and Ofsted.