Funding neglect for the nation’s sixth forms and colleges has reached deplorable levels, unions warn, in the wake of findings over deficits and cuts.
Today's report from the Education Policy Institute, examining the financial health of institutions, warns rising numbers are falling into deficit as real-term funding per pupil falls 16 per cent in the past nine years.
Student learning hours and staff wages both deteriorated as a result, it concludes, calling for an urgent review of funding adequacy. Education leaders have voiced criticism of a picture in settings, warning urgent action is needed to reverse a worrying trend.
“Even for a government with such a terrible record on education funding in general, its neglect of sixth forms and colleges has been particularly egregious,” said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the association of school and college leaders.
“Despite the fact that this phase of education is obviously vital to the life chances of young people, sixth forms and colleges have been starved of the funding they need and students deserve.”
Yorkshire college warnings
In October, 15 college settings across Yorkshire signed up to the Love our Colleges campaign as it lobbied Parliament calling for extra cash. Students are being “short-changed” when it comes to further education, principals told The Yorkshire Post, with some seeing fewer teaching hours, cost-cutting on staff salaries and stretched resource. Additionally, over recent weeks, there have been strikes at Bradford College as staff walk out over pay.
The full EPI report considered education funding for students aged 16 to 19, which includes school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and further education colleges. Their financial health has reached a dire position, report authors warn.
“While it is widely acknowledged that schools are facing growing funding pressures, our research shows that the financial health of sixth forms and colleges is particularly precarious,” said Gerard Dominguez-Reig, senior researcher at the EPI.
“The sharp, real terms decline in funding over nine years has led to larger deficits in 16-19 education institutions, and has taken place alongside a substantial fall in student learning hours, with declines of over 20 per cent in academic subjects.”
Rod Bristow, UK president of Pearson which commissioned the research, said: “This phase of learning has a big impact on social mobility and people’s life chances. We should use this opportunity to encourage a step change, to clarify the 16-19 pathways that offer the best return for young people, and offer young people choices that expand their horizons and improve their lives.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We recognise that 16 to 19 funding rates are challenging for all providers at the moment and are looking carefully at this in the run-up to the next Spending Review.
“Our school sixth forms and colleges have a vital role to play in making sure people have the skills they need to get on in life. That is why we have protected the base rate of funding for 16 to 19 year olds until 2020. We continue to allocate further funding for specific needs such as an extra £500m for providers to support disadvantaged students.
“We will also be providing an additional £500m every year, for the delivery of the new gold standard T levels once they are fully rolled out.”