Real terms spending per student in FE and school sixth forms will drop to the same level as 30 years ago by the end of the decade, analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows.
A new report by the thinktank for the children’s commissioner highlights the slower per-learner increase in funding over the 2000s for learners in 16-18 education compared to pre-16 education - and a real-terms cut in spending over the 2010s.
Despite a significant increase in total spending over the 2000s for 16- to 18-year-olds, the IFS notes that this was also a period of rising participation in education for students aged 16 and over, so spending per student only rose by about 27 per cent in real terms between 2000-01 and 2009-10. This is half as much as the per-pupil rise in spending across early years, primary and secondary schools across the same period, which saw an average increase of 52 per cent.
Since 2010, the IFS estimates there has been a 15-20 per cent real-terms cut in total spending for 16-18 education. The authors of the report state: “A lack of real-terms increase in spending per student over such a long period of time is remarkable and it will inevitably leave resources severely squeezed.”
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form College Association, said the report provides further evidence that the Department for Education’s main priority in the next spending review should be to bid for a significant increase in the funding rate for 16- to 18-year-olds.
He added: "Otherwise, as the IfS predicts, spending for 16- to 18-year-olds will be the same in real terms in 2020 as it was in 1990. This will hamper our shared ambitions for our young people, social mobility and the post-Brexit economy.
"Small, hypothecated increases in 16-18 funding linked to particular subjects have no impact on the education of the majority of young people. A significant increase to the funding rate is the only way to way to ensure our young people can continue to receive a high quality, internationally competitive education."
Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the funding system for education must be fairer. He added: "In addition to dedicating more funding into education overall, the Government must review how that money is divided across all age groups.
“The biggest losers, of course, are 16 to 18-year-olds who miss out on the breadth, depth and support that they deserve as they make the daunting journey from childhood into adulthood.”