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Colleges call for cash to address post-16 funding 'crisis'

The Sixth Form Colleges' Association is calling for a £200 per student increase in 16-19 funding in its general election manifesto

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The Sixth Form Colleges' Association is calling for a £200 per student increase in 16-19 funding in its general election manifesto

Colleges and schools have joined forces to launch a campaign for increased funding for sixth-form education ahead of the general election.

The Support Our Sixth-Formers (SOS) campaign has been launched by the Sixth Form Colleges' Association today (SFCA), with the support of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). The SFCA's manifesto, also published today, calls for the introduction of an "SOS uplift" in funding of £200 per student – or a 5 per cent increase.

The SFCA's manifesto says that funding pressures are turning sixth-form education into a "part-time experience", with sixth formers in England now receiving half as much tuition time as their counterparts in other leading countries. It also calls for a review of sixth-form funding, the introduction of a VAT refund scheme for all sixth-form providers and a competitive process for establishing new sixth-form provision.

'Healthy, happy, resilient and productive citizens'

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the SFCA, said: “We are calling on all political parties to back the ‘Support Our Sixth-Formers campaign’ and adopt the recommendations in our election manifesto. The focus on pre-16 education and introduction of the national funding formula for schools has overshadowed the funding crisis in sixth-form education. As the government’s planned investment in post-16 education is focused entirely on technical education it will have no impact on the vast majority of students in sixth-form colleges or school sixth forms.

"Increased investment is now urgently required to ensure that students pursuing A levels and other academic qualifications receive the sort of high quality education and support they need to become healthy, happy, resilient and productive citizens.”

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “All political parties must commit to addressing, as a matter of urgency, the severe underfunding of sixth-form education. Schools are being hit by rising costs but the situation in post-16 education is even more serious because these pressures come on top of funding cutbacks in the last parliament.”

A 'cost-saving' exercise

In October, a survey by the SFCA revealed that nine out of 10 colleges were concerned about their financial health, with two-thirds dropping academic courses as a result. Meanwhile, research revealed in Tes on Friday highlighted that almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of colleges said that they would offer three, rather than four, A-level subjects for 2017-18, with only the most able students having an opportunity to study a fourth subject.

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