BTECs should be protected and the 16 to 18 funding rate raised again, the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) has urged.
In its election manifesto, published today, the organisation calls for the sixth-form funding rate to be raised to £4,760 per student, and for applied general qualifications, such as BTECs, to be protected.
The future of applied generals is uncertain as the government aims to streamline the number of qualifications available. Applied generals are the main focus of a review of qualifications at level 3 and below, with the Department for Education still to decide which post-16 qualifications it will fund for young people in colleges and sixth forms, alongside the "gold standard" A levels, apprenticeships and T levels, due to be introduced in 2020.
According to the SFCA, a dedicated capital fund for sixth-form providers and a reformed process for establishing new post-16 provision should also be introduced.
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While the SFCA says that the government’s pledge to increase the sixth-form funding rate from £4,000 to £4,188 in 2020-21 is “a step in the right direction”, it calls on political parties to adopt the recent recommendation from the Commons Education Select Committee to increase the funding rate to “at least £4,760 per student, rising in line with inflation”.
With the SFCA’s analysis indicating that the number of 16- to 18-year-olds in full-time education will increase by over 260,000 in the next nine years, the manifesto calls for a “dedicated capital expansion fund for high-performing sixth-form providers”. Finally, it calls for “a single, competitive process for establishing new sixth-form provision” that focuses “on the age range of students (16- to 18-year-olds) rather than where they study (school or college)”. A “lack of co-ordination” in the current approach means that decisions to create school sixth forms are “rarely linked” to the current and future provision in colleges, it adds.
Bill Watkin, SFCA chief executive, said: “We hope all political parties will adopt the recommendations in our manifesto. The recent increase in the funding rate is welcome, but whoever wins the next election needs to finish the job and raise the rate to at least £4,760 per year.
"We believe the newly reformed applied general qualifications have a vital role to play in meeting the needs of the economy and they must sit alongside T levels and A levels in the future qualifications landscape. Our members are ready to play their part in meeting the demographic surge in 16- to 18-year-olds, but they desperately need the capital funding to make that a reality; and a single, competitive process for establishing new sixth-form provision is now long overdue.”