The chancellor of the exchequer is being urged to increase the funding rate for 16- to 18-year-olds in schools and colleges by £200 per student in the Budget.
A coalition of 12 organisations representing school and college leaders, governors, teachers and support staff in England have written a letter to the chancellor asking him to take action as it launches the Raise the Rate campaign.
The campaign cites research from education consultancy London Economics that calls for a £760-per-student increase to sixth-form funding that is raised annually in line with inflation. They say this is the minimum they need to increase funding to the level required to protect subjects at risk of being dropped, and increase extra-curricular activities, work experience opportunities and university visits.
A 'modest' increase
However, the groups said they recognise that major funding decisions are unlikely to be made until next year's spending review which would not take effect until 2020-21. They are instead urging Mr Hammond to introduce a "modest" increase of at least £200 per student in the Budget on Monday.
The coalition said this will provide some "much-needed financial stability" and ensure schools and colleges can continue to deliver the high-class education young people deserve.
Last month, a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed funding per sixth-form peaked in 2010-11 but has since fallen 21 per cent and remains lower than at any point since at least 2002-03. Since 2010-11, funding per student aged 16- to 18-years-old in further education has fallen by 8 per cent in real terms and is now at around the same level as during the late 2000s.
The letter states: "The running costs of schools and colleges have increased sharply since 2010 and the government has imposed a range of new requirements on institutions.
"This has left much less money for schools and colleges to spend on the frontline education of students at a time when the needs of young people have become increasingly complex – for example, the sharp rise in students experiencing mental health problems.
"This sustained underinvestment in sixth-form education is having a negative impact on the education of students, the financial health of schools and colleges, and the ability of government to achieve its ambitions for the economy and society.
"Only a significant increase in the national funding rate for 16 to 18-year-olds will make it possible for the government to meet its objectives for a strong post-Brexit economy and a socially mobile, highly educated workforce."
Colleges 'asked to do more with less'
Chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, Bill Watkin, said: "Sixth-form education is not just about exam results, it includes a host of essential wrap-around experiences.
"Every year, colleges are being asked to do more with less, and we must not sit idly by while young people are short-changed."
Chief executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, said evidence shows that colleges have faced a decade of cuts.
He added: “We are pleased to be part of this coalition of organisations saying ‘enough is enough’. What the sector needs is not initiatives for the sake of initiatives, but a fair and sustainable base rate of funding that allows colleges to concentrate on what they do best. Last week saw the biggest further education protests in a generation – with the sector, the public, and politicians from all parties united in their pursuit for a fair rate of funding that will allow colleges to not just survive but thrive.”
Chancellor must take note
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said government cuts to 16-18 education have severely damaged a sector.
He added: "It makes no sense whatsoever that the basic funding rate in sixth forms and colleges is a miserly £4,000 per student, while universities are charging tuition fees of up to £9,250, often for fewer teaching hours.”
Emily Chapman, the NUS students’ union vice president for FE, said successive budget cuts had left many colleges in a state of financial instability.
She added: “The result has been course closures, cuts to student support, and reductions in teaching provision. For too long students have had to make decisions about their future and learning prospects based on affordability, this is wrong. The chancellor must take note and implement the proposals that are long overdue.”
Ian Pretty, chief executive of the Collab Group that represents larger colleges, said: “It is crucial that colleges are provided with sustainable funding to continue to provide transformative support to learners, employers and local communities.”
The 12 associations supporting the campaign are: the Association of Colleges, the Association of School and College Leaders, Collab Group, the Confederation of School Trusts, the Grammar School Heads Association, the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Education Union, the National Governance Association, the National Union of Students, the Sixth Form Colleges Association, SSAT (the Schools, Students and Teachers network) and Unison.