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Funding cuts are stripping post-16 education 'to the bone'

A group of leading education bodies has accused policymakers of stripping 16-19 education “to the bone” in a damning new report.

The six bodies, representing school sixth forms and sixth-form and FE colleges, claim in 16-19 Education Stripped to the Bare Bones that loss of funding for A-level and vocational qualifications is having “dire consequences”.

They say that A-level students are missing out on up to 200 hours of teaching time over a two-year course compared to five years ago because of funding cuts, and that sixth-form funding is now little over half (58 per cent) of what it was when today’s 17-year-olds were born.

The bodies behind the report are the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Association of Colleges (AoC), Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), Independent Academies Association (IAA), Freedom and Autonomy for Schools (Fasna) and Principals’ Professional Council (PPC).

In a letter to education secretary Michael Gove, they write that the “continued and rapid decline in funding” is leading to minority courses being cut and post-16 provision “stripped to the bare bones.”

The letter states: “Schools and colleges have to live within their means. They have had little option but to reduce educational opportunities for 16- to 19-year-olds. Funding has fallen to such a low level that these 17-year-olds have fewer choices in terms of courses, less opportunity for breadth in their education, and are in larger classes than ever before.”

AoC assistant chief executive Julian Gravatt (pictured) said: “FE and sixth form colleges are working exceptionally hard with an ever decreasing resource to provide excellent education to 16- to 18-year olds.

“However, these reductions cannot go on forever without students losing out. Ministers now, and in the future, need to consider funding as a whole, not pick out parts to protect while leaving the rest to wither.”

SFCA Deputy Chief Executive James Kewin said: “The government needs to wake up to the crisis in sixth-form funding, which risks damaging the prospects of young people at what is a vital time in their education.”

The organisations have requested an urgent meeting with Mr Gove to discuss their concerns.

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