Large cuts to post-16 education in the forthcoming spending review would be “self-defeating”, colleges have warned the government.
In its submission ahead of the review, expected in November, the Association of Colleges (AoC) says any further cuts to the sector would defeat the government's own objectives of improving the system and raise productivity.
The Treasury has set a £20 billion savings target by 2019, which implies average cuts of 30 per cent for unprotected departmental budgets, AoC warns this follows a 27 per cent real-term cut in government funding to colleges over the last five years.
Its paper puts forward 10 recommendations for the government to consider. It says 16-18 funding should be the same as for 14-16 students, and that the government should introduce three-year funding allocations for colleges. It also calls for adult FE to be funded on the basis of outcome agreements, drawn up by colleges with objectives agreed with local partners.
On the subject of mergers, it argues that any short-term costs should be met by the government, and schools and colleges should be asked to consider merging their sixth forms with a view to no single institution having fewer than 250 students.
The paper also recommends cutting VAT on sixth-form education, introducing loans to help 19- to 24-year-olds fund college courses, and introducing long-term initiatives to help colleges recruit English and maths teachers.
It says the apprenticeship levy should be set at 0.5 per cent of payroll costs, paid by all public and private organisations with more than 250 employees, and be used to support high quality training.
The AoC also calls on the government to “rationalise” and clarify the roles of the Education Funding Agency, Skills Funding Agency, Higher Education Funding Council for England, the FE commissioner and Ofsted.