School sixth forms lose a fifth of their funding

Sixth forms have suffered the sharpest funding cuts in education, says Institute for Fiscal Studies

Mark Smulian

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Funding for 16 to 18-year-olds and for general further education has suffered the sharpest cuts in the education sector, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said.

It said there had been large cuts to funding per student in school sixth forms, which had fallen by 21% since its peak in 2010-11, and was now lower than at any point since at least 2002-03.

According to the IFS, total school spending per pupil fell by 8 per cent from 2009-10 to 2017-18, mainly driven by a 55 per cent cut in local authority spending on services and reduction in sixth form budgets.

Cuts had been less severe in funding for under-16 education and HE, while spending on the 3 to 4-year-olds’ free entitlement to early education had risen from “almost nothing” in the early 1990s to about £3 billion in 2017-18.

Funding per pupil provided to individual primary and secondary schools has been better protected than in sixth forms and was about 4 per cent below its recent historic high in 2015, though it remains over 60 per cent higher than in 2000-01.

Luke Sibieta, co-author of the Nuffield Foundation-funded report and an IFS research fellow, said: “Spending per school pupil rose by more than 50 per cent over the 2000s, though it has fallen by 8 per cent since 2010 once you include cuts to local authority spend and school sixth forms.

“In this context, the almost complete lack of growth in spending on further education is all the more remarkable.”

Organisations involved in post-16 education warned three years ago that scores of small school sixth forms faced closure as a result of the government decision to lower the rate of funding for post-16 education, and last autumn bodies representing headteachers, governors and students told chancellor Philip Hammond that he should address “chronic underinvestment in sixth form education”.


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