MPs have been urged to back a funding boost for post-16 education to avert cuts to courses, rising class sizes and sixth form closures.
The plea from three associations which represent sixth forms and colleges came ahead of a Westminster Hall debate this afternoon on 16-19 education funding.
The Sixth Form Colleges Association, the Association of Colleges, and the Association of School and College Leaders are urging MPs to back their Support Our Sixth-formers campaign.
They have called on the government to introduce a £200 per student funding uplift to improve the education and support offered to sixth form students.
The campaign also wants a review of sixth form funding to "ensure it is linked to the realistic costs of delivering a rounded, high-quality curriculum".
Spending on further education and sixth forms fell by 14 per cent under the coalition government, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
The associations warn that without further action there will be further cuts to courses, class sizes will continue to rise and school sixth forms in rural areas will disappear.
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “A period of prolonged underinvestment means that sixth formers in England are only funded to receive half the tuition time as sixth formers in other leading economies.
"There is now a 21 per cent drop in education funding at the age of 16 that it is very difficult to justify – particularly as young people are required to participate in education and training until the age of 18."
Geoff Barton, ASCL's general secretary, said: “Funding is so dire that courses with smaller intakes such as music and drama are in danger of disappearing from sixth forms and colleges, leaving them as the preserve of only those who can afford to pay for them privately."
And David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "This is not just a funding issue, it’s a moral issue and should deeply concern every one of us. Young people deserve the right investment to support their ambitions and abilities."
A DfE spokeman said: “Every young person should have access to an excellent education and even though public finances remain difficult, we have protected the base rate of funding for all post-16 students until 2020 to ensure that happens.
“We have also announced additional investment in technical education for 16 to 19-year olds, rising to an additional £500 million a year. On top of this we are providing more than half a billion pounds this year alone to help post-16 institutions support disadvantaged students and those with low prior attainment.
“Our commitment to 16 to 19 education has contributed to the current record high proportion of 16 to 18-year olds participating in education or apprenticeships. Of course, the government will keep 16 to 19 funding under consideration.”