David Cameron’s pledge to maintain per-pupil funding in schools should the Conservatives win the election has been attacked as “disgraceful” and “disappointing” by college leaders.
In a speech today, the prime minister promised that his party would protect funding in cash terms for 5- to 16 year-olds until 2020, although he said the money provided for each pupil would not rise in line with inflation.
James Kewin, deputy director of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, branded it a “disgraceful decision”, believing it signals further and deeper cuts for the FE sector.
“Sixth-form colleges have been subjected to savage and disproportionate funding cuts since 2010,” he said. “This announcement is a clear signal that we should expect more of the same from a future Conservative administration.
“This will disproportionately affect sixth-form colleges as they do not have the ability to cross-subsidise from the more generous funding available for pre-16 students.
“Protecting school students by punishing college students, who are more likely to have lower levels of prior attainment and come from more disadvantaged backgrounds, is an act of educational and economic vandalism.”
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said that although the prime minister’s announcement was good news for schools, it was “desperately disappointing” for sixth-form and general FE colleges, which between them educated more than 830,000 16- to 18-year-olds.
“This leaves college students extremely vulnerable to huge cuts in the next Parliament and we strongly appeal to the prime minister to think again before risking the education and training opportunities of thousands of young people,” he said.
“We fail to see why, when everyone has to stay in education or training until the age of 18, this age group continues to be treated less favourably than their young counterparts. Investment in earlier years will be wasted if 16- to 18-year-olds continue to receive 22 per cent less than 11- to 16-year-olds.”
Mr Doel reiterated the AoC’s call for a “once-in-a-generation” review of education funding to determine how money is spent at each stage.
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