As thousands open their A-level results today, further education leaders have issued stark warnings about 16-19 funding.
Bill Watkin, the chief executive of the Sixth Form College Association, congratulated his members for delivering another year of outstanding results – but warned that such high standards would be hard to maintain without a serious increase in sixth-form funding in next month’s spending review.
“Additional investment is needed to keep key subjects on the timetable, offer a wide range of extra-curricular experiences, and provide the essential support activities that students need.
He pointed towards the education select committee’s plea to MPs to boost funding for colleges – and said that the government needed to wake up to the crisis so that young people could prosper.
Background: Your guide to reformed A levels
Live news: A-level results 2019
Range of options
David Hughes, chief executive at the Association of Colleges, praised FE colleges for offering students a wide range of options that allowed them to study part-time, or be flexible around other commitments.
However, he warned that the decline in A-level English, languages and music was worrying.
"We must begin to address the reasons for the continued year-on-year drop, as all provide valuable pathways to future careers and professions," he said.
Simon Ashworth, chief policy officer of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, urged new prime minister Boris Johnson to keep his promises.
“Boris Johnson has promised more money and it needs to be pumped in quickly if he doesn’t want thousands of disaffected young people on his hands who are constantly being told that apprenticeships lead them to a bright future.
“AELP’s major concern is that employers would currently like to be offering them up to 25 per cent more apprenticeship opportunities if the funding was available and the shortage is being felt most outside the big cities,” he said.
Mr Johnson also sent out his best wishes to students – and said that the new government would focus on providing great apprenticeships for those who don’t go to university.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said he was delighted to see the rise in pupils choosing science-related subjects.
“This is encouraging particularly as we look to boost science in this country and the skills we’ll need in the future,” he said.
Their comments come a day after the government caused a stir when a tweet from the Department for Education suggested that students had just three options: attend university, start an apprenticeship or enter the world of work – there was no mention at all about FE providers or FE colleges. Shadow FE minister Gordon Marsden said the omission was a "disgrace".
The tweet was followed by an in-depth, passionate statement from Mr Williamson – who holds responsibility for the FE sector – about the importance of vocational education.
Juliana Mohamad Noor, the National Union of Students' vice president for further education, welcomed the news that the gap in entry to university between the least and the most advantaged has closed significantly, but urged that more needed to be done.
"If we hope to meet the OfS’ [Office for Students'] target of narrowing the entry gap at high-tariff providers in particular to a ratio of 2.8 to 1 by 2024-25, admissions reform alone will not be sufficient to solve this problem.
"These students require additional support to succeed throughout FE and in school and should have better opportunities to share how class impacts their educational experiences, and how this is exacerbated by the rising costs of entering higher education," she said.
A-level results day: the statistics
A* grades have dropped to a six-year low – just 7.8 per cent of all UK entries received an A*.
The overall pass rate remained unchanged, at 97.6 per cent.
More girls than boys achieved A*/A: 25.5 per cent of girls achieved grades of A and above, compared with 25.4 per cent of boys
Girls have also overtaken boys in entries for science A levels for the first time ever. Females accounted for 50.3 per cent entries in biology, chemistry and physics this year (50.3 per cent) and males for 49.7 per cent.
Spanish has overtaken French for the first time – the number of entries in Spanish increased by 4.5 per cent, however in French, entries fell by 4.1 per cent.
A-level entries in political studies have rocketed by nearly 10 per cent this year.
The number of English and maths A-level entries has dropped again.