The announcement of an £80 million maths premium for sixth-formers in the autumn budget was “disingenuous” and will do little to address the “fundamental underfunding” of 16-19 education, the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA) has warned.
The government document, published alongside chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget speech last month, said that it would “reward schools and colleges who support their students to study maths by giving them £600 for every extra pupil who decides to take maths or further maths A-levels or core maths – with more than £80 million available initially and no cap on numbers”.
However, a written statement from school standards minister Nick Gibb revealed that the £83 million “initially” budgeted for the policy is actually spread over a five-year period, with just £4.6 million set aside for 2019-20.
SFCA deputy chief executive Jame Kewin said: “The budget announcement of an £80 million maths premium was certainly eye-catching, but it will do little to address the fundamental underfunding of 16-19 education.
“It was also disingenuous to describe the £80 million as ‘initial’ funding when we now know it will be spread over five years.”
He also called for the £600 uplift to be applied to all maths students. Otherwise, Mr Kewin added, much of the £80 million “will be added to the annual underspend in the 16-19 budget”.
SFCA research published ahead of the budget suggested that funding cuts were damaging educational opportunities for learners in sixth-form colleges and schools.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Last month's Budget delivered an investment of more than £400 million in education and skills to make sure young people have the skills needed in the new economy. This funding of £600 for additional pupils studying level 3 maths will help schools and colleges support more of their students to achieve qualification in this vital subject.
"This new maths premium is uncapped - meaning it will grow as demand does and it is up to those providers to decide how many students they can enter effectively. It is normal for Budget spending to span a number of years.”
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