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School-FE funding gap is no surprise with two systems

Julian Gravatt of the Association of Colleges (assistant chief executive) and college principals have every right to be angry over the continuing funding gap between school sixth forms and 16-18 FE provision (FE Focus, November 28).

The 5.61 per cent gap identified in the Learning and Skills Council's grant letter should certainly be eradicated before the transfer of 16-18 school and FE funding to local authorities in 2010-11 (subject to the passing of the Education and Skills Bill).

And yet, the AoC should not be surprised that the gap exists. This is the result when 5-16 and 16-18 provision is funded by two funding councils, namely local authorities and the LSC, a position which would be the same under the Conservatives, with 3-19 schools funded by local authorities and 16-18 FE provision funded by a further education funding council for England.

Furthermore, the existence of the gap does not make the transition of 16- 18 FE funding - which is the largest share of 16-18 LSC investment - to the light-touch Young People's Learning Agency and then to local authorities more difficult. The transfer can go ahead whether it exists or not.

Indeed, the funding gap between school sixth forms and 16-18 FE provision could well remain if the end game of funding reform is local authorities managing a 5-16 schools budget and a separate 16-18 budget.

As Mick Fletcher, a policy consultant, and I pointed out in New Localism and 14-19 Funding: Putting learner choice first, published by the Campaign for Learning this year, the creation of a single 14-19 funding system managed by local authorities, based on comparable funding for comparable provision irrespective of provider, is the surest way to eradicate the 16- 18 funding gap. It is also the best way of ending the 14-15 funding gap between schools and FE.

Mark Corney, Director, MC-Consultancy.

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