Almost 100 MPs have urged chancellor Sajid Javid to boost 16 to 18 funding in next week’s spending announcement.
The cross-party group of 93 MPs includes chair of the Commons Education Select Committee Robert Halfon and a number of other former Conservative ministers, Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran, Labour’s shadow education minister Tracy Brabin and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.
They have signed a letter calling on the chancellor to prioritise investment in 16 to 18 education in the forthcoming spending round, and highlighting findings from a recent Raise the Rate campaign survey which they say show that “the underinvestment in sixth-form education is bad for students, bad for social mobility and bad for the economy”.
Background: 16-18 funding to remain frozen for seventh year
More on this: Pupil premium reform and 9 other ways to close the gap
Underfunding in FE
The letter also urges Mr Javid to implement the first recommendation in the Commons Education Select Committee’s report on school and college funding from July to “urgently address underfunding in further education by increasing the base rate from £4,000 to at least £4,760, rising in line with inflation.”
This, it adds, is “the only way to ensure that schools and colleges can increase student services to minimum required levels, protect minority subjects and reverse the decline in extra-curricular activities and work experience.”
Mr Halfon said: "It is extraordinary that 16 to 18 education has for so long been starved of cash. Funding this age group properly must sit at the heart of a 10-year plan and be a major priority in the forthcoming spending round. I am delighted that so many MPs have used the letter to support the education committee’s recommendation to raise the rate of funding to at least £4,760 per student, rising in line with inflation.”
And James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, which is coordinating the Raise the Rate campaign, said: “We are grateful to all the MPs that signed this letter in support of the Raise the Rate campaign - particularly at such short notice and during recess. Next week’s spending round is a golden opportunity for the government to address the funding crisis in sixth form education, and ensure that colleges and schools receive the funding they need to provide every 16- to 18-year-old with a high-quality education”.
The letter is not the only one the chancellor has received on college funding. The chair and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility have also written to Mr Javid, urging him to prioritise social mobility and increase spending on the further education sector.
Chair Justin Madders MP and co-chair Baroness Tyler of Enfield set out a series of policies to improve opportunities for disadvantaged young people. They call on the new government to act now to boost low levels of social mobility across the country.
Cuts to the further education sector have disproportionately affected young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, they write, and increasing spending in this area could ensure FE and apprenticeships become effective vehicles for social mobility.
They say a student premium of at least £500 per year should be introduced for disadvantaged 16- to 19-year-olds – a move recommended by the Social Mobility Commission in its most recent State of the Nation report – as a first stage of re-purposing the pupil premium to have a stronger focus on social mobility.
The letter says: “Our research has highlighted serious inequalities from early years through to the workplace. It is critical that the new government acts now to change this and stop the tragic waste of talent that blights both our society and economy.”
James Turner, chief executive of the Sutton Trust, said: “The APPG is right to call on the Treasury to put social mobility at the heart of their spending plans. It is a critical moment for the new government to act and show their commitment to improving opportunities for disadvantaged children and young people across the country.
“We particularly welcome their calls to prioritise further education by introducing a student premium of at least £500 per year for disadvantaged 16-19-year-olds. Given that twice the number of disadvantaged 16-to-18-year-olds are in FE compared to school sixth forms, the sector has the potential to be an effective vehicle for social mobility, if properly funded.”