Nine in 10 sixth-form colleges 'concerned' about their finances

Two-thirds of colleges have dropped courses as a result of funding cuts, according to research by the Sixth Form Colleges' Association

Will Martin

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Nine in 10 sixth-form colleges are concerned about their financial health, a new report by the Sixth Form Colleges' Association (SFCA) has found.

The SFCA’s Funding Impact Survey Report found that 90 per cent of sixth-form colleges surveyed said they were "concerned" or "extremely concerned" about the financial health of their college in 2017/18. Furthermore, almost two thirds (64 per cent) of the colleges said they did not believe the amount of funding they will receive next year will be sufficient to support educationally or economically disadvantaged students.

The report also found that two thirds (66 per cent) of sixth-form colleges have dropped courses as a result of funding cuts and the increase in the cost of delivering the curriculum, with 39 per cent dropping courses in modern foreign languages such as German, French and Italian, and 15 per cent cutting Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses.

The report states: “The message from the most effective and efficient providers of sixth-form education is clear – more investment from the government is essential if sixth-form colleges, school and academy sixth forms are to continue providing young people with the high-quality education they need to progress to higher education and employment.”

According to the report, per-student funding for sixth-form students in England is 20 per cent lower than that for 11- to 16-year-olds, and 47 per cent lower than the average university tuition fee of £8,636. 

‘This is a wake-up call’

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the SFCA, said: “This report should act as a wake-up call to the government... A review of sixth-form funding is urgently required to ensure it is linked to the realistic costs of delivering a rounded, high-quality curriculum. Failure to do this risks turning sixth-form education into a narrow and part-time experience. That would be bad for students, bad for society and bad for the economy.”

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These findings reflect the experience of both schools and colleges across the post-16 sector. The level of funding provided by the government is simply inadequate and the situation is dire.

“Sixth forms and colleges have no alternative other than to cut courses and scale back enrichment activities. We are already hearing of school sixth forms being closed and unless funding is increased several further closures will follow. Pre-16 education is also facing enormous funding pressures, but the situation is even worse in the post-16 sector. This is a critical time in the lives of young people which determines their higher education and career options and thus their life chances."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Every young person should have access to an excellent education and we have protected the base rate of funding for all post-16 students until 2020 to ensure that happens. We’ve also ended the unfair discrimination between colleges and school sixth forms and we now ensure funding is based on student numbers rather than discriminating between qualifications.

“On top of this we are providing more than half a billion pounds this year alone to help post-16 institutions support students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with low prior attainment.”

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Will Martin picture

Will Martin

Will is a junior reporter at TES

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