£1 billion a year spent on school sixth form drop outs, colleges estimate

Speaking at the ResearchED FE and Vocational conference, Association of Colleges president Ian Ashman called for greater focus on careers advice in schools

Stephen Exley

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Around £1 billion a year is spent educating students who subsequently drop out of school sixth forms without completing their programme of study, the Association of Colleges (AoC) has estimated.

Speaking at the Research FE and Vocational conference on Saturday, AoC president Ian Ashman said that poor careers advice in schools meant that many students remained unaware of the non-academic options available to them.

“Unless young people know about colleges… they won’t choose them,” he said. “I think it’s incredibly important we get good careers advice and guidance. About 25 per cent of young people who start school sixth form at age 16 leave at the end of the first year, they don’t complete the programme.

“We estimate there’s £1 billion [that] gets spent on that in one year. The further education sector has a budget of about £3 billion. If you gave us that £1 billion, we would have the opportunity, for example, to fund 19-year-olds at the same rate as 16- to 18-year-olds, to properly fund work experience.”

'A very direct financial cost'

He continued “There’s a very direct financial cost that comes from poor advice and guidance. Most importantly, there are so many young people that get off to a false start because they have had poor advice and guidance – or no advice and guidance.”

The AoC is “not giving up” on pressuring the government to see through plans to compel schools to allow providers in to talk to students about non-academic options available, he added.

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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