Sixth-form students in England could be taught for just 15 hours a week from next year because of funding cuts, a new report claims.
The report, Costing the sixth-form curriculum, published by the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), looks at the true cost of providing a post-16 curriculum.
It says sixth form colleges reduced the teaching workforce by 13 per cent between 2010 and 2012, while seeing an increase in students of 1.5 per cent.
Since 2010, teacher contact time has increased, while teacher salaries have remained static and class sizes have increased.
The SFCA recommends that 22–25 hours are needed to deliver a worthwhile curriculum, but for financial reasons colleges are on 18 hours of direct teaching and support in 2012–13 and are planning to reduce this to 15 hours by 2016–17.
“This is between 7–10 hours less than required and is not a choice – it is a consequence of the current 16–19 funding settlement,” the report says.
By 2016-17, the report says, sixth-form colleges will need extra funding to support an additional 7-10 hours of direct teaching if they are to deliver a worthwhile curriculum, which it says will cost at least £1,000 more per student than the current planned settlement.
It warns that English sixth-formers risk being left behind by international competitors as a result of a “low hours, short duration” sixth-form model.
In high-performing education systems such as Shanghai, Singapore and others, sixth-formers are taught for around 30 hours per week.
The report recommends that the next government should undertake a review of funding across all stages of education, echoing calls from the Association of Colleges.
Professor Ken Spours, of the UCL Institute of Education, which contributed to the report, said the research showed sixth-form education in England was “out of step” with international systems.
“The weakness of our low-hours, short-duration model is being exacerbated by ongoing cuts to funding,” he said.
“This will make it increasingly difficult for young people in England to compete for jobs and opportunities in the global economy.”
David Igoe, chief executive of the SFCA, said: “From next year, institutions will only be able to afford to put a teacher in front of students for around half the 30 hours they are actually in college.
“Our young people will miss out on having that direct teaching and support which is vital to their progress.”
The SFCA has been campaigning for the government to drop the so-called "learning tax" on sixth-form colleges that is leaving them hundreds of thousands of pounds worse off than schools and academies in terms of VAT costs.
The SFCA estimates that the VAT bill leaves the average college with £335,000 less to spend each year than school and academy sixth forms, which have the costs refunded by the government.
Last month, a cross-party group of MPs wrote to education secretary Nicky Morgan urging her to support the introduction of a VAT-refund scheme.
MPs urge VAT refund scheme for sixth form colleges – February 2015
Sixth form colleges demand end to 'damaging' changes to funding – November 2014