Ministers are considering giving school sixth forms and colleges extra cash for any student that takes the International Baccalaureate (IB) or four “facilitating” subjects including maths at A level, TES understands.
According to a source within the Department for Education, a decision to increase the funding by 2016 is in an attempt to “protect” the IB and further maths programmes from being “axed” entirely in schools.
Facilitating subjects - maths, further maths, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history, and modern and classical languages - are listed by Russell Group to help advise students that which courses elite universities prefer them to have taken.
But from last month school sixth forms and colleges only received just over £4,000 per full-time student enough to cover – at most – three and a “half” A-levels, although many complain, in reality, this barely covers three.
As such, the DfE is concerned that due to tighter budgets sixth forms will begin to cut less popular courses, such as further maths, as is already happening with the IB.
A source told TES: “The main incentive is to protect further maths. We're worried schools are thinking about axing further maths programmes – they should not do anything hasty as they will get more funding than they think.
“Details will be published in the next few weeks.”
In July, TES reported the IB was in a “death spiral” as dozens of state schools were ditching the IB due to a lack of funding. The full IB diploma course costs around £5,500, well above funding available to sixth forms.
Under the changes being considered by the department, sixth forms will be handed money for 650 to 700 hours of contact time, rather than the current 540 to 600 hours.
The Association of School and College Leaders said that while it welcomed any support for subjects such as further maths, it was doubtful that the money would be additional, meaning some courses will lose out as a result.
Malcolm Trobe, ASCL’s deputy general secretary, said: “We firmly support any move to bolster further maths as a programme, but we do have some serious concerns that this will result in unintended consequences.
“The main problem with introducing something like this is that the funding level for 16-19 is already too low.
It’s unlikely this is going to include any additional money so it will mean moving money from one area to another and if you start slipping money over to large new programmes it’s going to have dire consequences [for other courses].”