The government needs to extend the 16-19 Tuition Fund and extend 16-19 courses for an additional year where needed to help learners make up for learning time lost due to the coronavirus, a new report says.
According to a report published today by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank, entitled Education recovery and resilience in England, 16-19 education already faced severe challenges prior to the pandemic, seeing the largest real-terms loss of funding in any phase of education since 2010-11.
EPI chief executive Natalie Perera said much of the national debate around education recovery had centred on support for younger pupils in schools, but it was clear that any plans from the government will also require substantial investment in the 16-19 phase, particularly in further education.
"We know that before the pandemic even hit, the 16-19 education phase suffered the most from real-terms funding cuts over the last decade. We need to see an ambitious package of support for students in FE from the prime minister that recognises the huge disruption to learning and progression over the last year.
"This means extending the Tuition Fund and current courses, and offering additional financial support for disadvantaged pupils, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Supporting students as they make the crucial transition into further study or a volatile labour market has to be a priority."
Covid catch-up: EPI recommendations to help 16-19 learners:
- Extend the 16-19 Tuition Fund for a further two years (the two-year cost: £204 million).
- Provide funding to extend 16-19 courses for an additional year where there is demand (three-year cost: £990 million).
- Fund post-16 places in alternative provision (three-year cost: £263 million).
- Fund a new 16-19 Student Premium (three-year cost: £740 million).
- Target subsidies towards younger apprentices aged 18-24 (three-year cost: neutral).
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said “The last year has been like no other for students, and today’s report from the EPI rightly examines what is needed at every stage of the education journey, because one size won’t fit all for education recovery.
"Further education had suffered neglect a decade before the pandemic and many students are nearing the end of their compulsory education. That is why young people must be a priority for urgent action and investment.
"AoC’s own education recovery plan revealed that 77 per cent of young people are behind where they should be at this time of the academic year. Young people leaving schools and colleges this summer face a tough labour market and the transitions from schools to colleges are more difficult than in normal years.
"Building the capacity to deliver takes time, so decisions need to be made very soon and, as rightly stated in the report, there’s no use in funding one-year programmes, when the impact of Covid looks set to last for some time. Long-term, joined-up opportunities that support everyone to progress with minimal disruption and get the skills needed for the future are the only way to prevent a lost generation.”
Bill Watkin, the chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said he believed any additional investment should be targeted in different ways.
He said: "The EPI is right to identify that 16 to 19 education faced significant challenges prior to the pandemic, and we welcome the report’s call for greater investment to aid the recovery of sixth form students. However, we would target this additional investment in different ways. For example, the priority with the 16-19 tuition fund should be to broaden eligibility (so more students benefit) and increase flexibility (so support can be tailored to the needs of students) rather than to simply extend the fund for a further year.
"The most effective way to help students recover from the pandemic is to increase the number of teaching or support hours delivered during the existing college or school day. That was the very clear message from our survey of members in February and that is how the government should prioritise and target additional investment for 16 to 19 year olds from this September. This would have the added benefit of starting the move away from the “low hours, short duration” model of sixth form education in England that research commissioned by SFCA from the Institute of Education identified as being in sharp contrast to the model adopted by many of our international competitors’.
A government spokesperson said: “We are working with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure all pupils have the chance to recover from the impact of the pandemic as quickly and comprehensively as possible – and we have appointed Sir Kevan Collins as education recovery commissioner to advise on this work.
“As part of this, we have already invested £1.7 billion in ambitious catch-up activity, including high-quality tutoring and summer school provision. The majority of the funding is targeted towards those most in need, while giving schools the flexibility to use funding as they believe best to support their pupils.”