FE funding level 'no higher than 30 years ago'

Education of 16-18-year-olds is a 'low priority area' for government spending, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies

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Further education and sixth-form colleges have not seen an increase in per-student funding over the past 30 years, according to new research.

A report published by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) today concludes that while school funding is tighter than at any time over the past three decades, it still compares favourably with FE and sixth-form funding, which has been continually squeezed. “Spending per pupil in school is set to be at least 70 per cent higher in 2020 than it was in 1990. Spending per pupil in sixth forms and FE is set to be no higher at all than it was in 1990,” the IFS says.

The report, entitled "Long-Run Comparisons of Spending per Pupil across Different Stages of Education" and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, for the first time provides consistent data on day-to-day or current spending per pupil in different stages of education in England over a long-term period.

Funding 'the same as in 1990' 

It concludes that the biggest real spending increases over the past two decades have been on school pupils, and while school spending per pupil is set to fall by 6.5 per cent between 2015–16 and 2019–20 – the biggest fall in at least 30 years – spending per student in further education is set to fall by around 13 per cent between 2010-11 and 2019-20. “This will leave spending per student approximately the same in real terms as it was in 1990," it states. "FE spending per student was 45 per cent higher than secondary school spending per student in 1990. It will be 10 per cent lower in 2019-20.”

Luke Sibieta, an author of the report and an associate director at IFS said: “The last 30 years have seen huge changes in spending priorities in education. There is a strong case for the increased spending on early years education. The rationale for focusing cuts on 16-18-year-olds and in further education is much less obvious. The actions – as opposed to the rhetoric – of both Labour and Conservative governments suggest that they are agreed this is a low priority area for spending. Why they think that is unclear."

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