Half of sixth forms cut language courses

Raise the Rate campaigners call on government to act and increase funding

Julia Belgutay

Languages have been cut at sixth form colleges

Half of schools and colleges have dropped courses in modern foreign languages because of funding pressures, according to a survey by the Sixth Form Colleges Association.

The survey, published today and involving the leaders of 271 schools and colleges, was conducted on behalf of the twelve organisations behind the Raise the Rate Campaign, which calls for an increase in funding for sixth form education.

It finds that 51 per cent of schools and colleges have dropped language courses – most commonly, A-level German, Spanish and French courses. Over a third have dropped science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) courses. 

Read more: Boost 16-18 funding by £200 per student, Hammond told

More news: FE sector welcomes Ofsted's funding 'wake-up call'

Background: No government funding for college teacher pay rise

'Extra upfront investment'

Meanwhile, over three-quarters of schools and colleges have reduced student support services or extra-curricular activities – with significant cuts to mental health support, employability skills development and careers advice.

Larger class sizes and reduced delivery hours are also used by many institutions as a way to make tight funding go further, while two-thirds of schools and colleges have moved from a standard four subject offer to a three subject offer.

A staggering 76 per cent of leaders do not believe the amount of funding they will receive next year will be sufficient to provide the support required by disadvantaged students.

Research from both London Economics and the Institute for Fiscal Studies last year highlighted the real terms reductions in sixth form funding since 2010. Today’s report concludes that raising the annual funding rate for 16- to 18-year-olds from £4,000 per student to at least £4,760 is the only way to ensure that schools and colleges can continue to deliver a high-quality sixth form education.   

'Serious consequences'

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “Today’s report makes it absolutely clear that the government must increase the funding rate for sixth form students in this year’s spending review. And this increase must go well beyond meeting the rising costs faced by schools and colleges.”

Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes said: “The decade of cuts for further education funding has had serious consequences. They have impacted the UK’s ability to offer life-changing learning and extra-curricular opportunities for young people, and to support their prospects in life and in the labour market.

"The continued calls from staff, students, parents, community groups, and employers can no longer be ignored by the chancellor. If this government is serious about delivering a strong economy, thriving communities and supporting young people to progress, it has to raise the rate, before it is too late”.

'Totally inadequate'

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said government funding for 16 to 18 education was set at a level that was “totally inadequate”. “The grim reality is that this policy decision is restricting the options and support available to young people in the state sector and it is impeding efforts to improve social mobility. The extent to which the government undervalues this vital provision is evident in the fact that the basic level of funding is £4,000 per student which is less than half the amount universities are able to charge in the next phase of education.”

Jim Skinner, chief executive of the Grammar Schools Heads Association said the evidence could not be clearer, showing all aspects of post-16 provision had been severely damaged by the devastating funding cuts of the past decade, while Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said school leaders, teachers, governors, local government, parents, charities, thinktanks, and research institutions all agreed that only new money from the Treasury would solve the funding crisis.

'Vital role to play'

A DfE spokesperson said: “Our further education and sixth form colleges have a vital role to play in making sure people have the skills they need to get on in life. That is why we have protected the base rate of funding for 16-19 year olds until 2020.

 “We will also be providing £500m every year, from 2020 to support the delivery of the new gold standard T levels – which some sixth form colleges will be offering. However, we recognise that the financial position for sixth form colleges is challenging and are looking carefully at the needs of all colleges in the run-up to the next Spending Review."

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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