Sixth-form deficits 'unsustainable' after 26% funding cut

Maintained schools with sixth forms have seen deficits increase at a faster rate than those without, study shows

Mark Smulian

Local authority schools with sixth forms have seen their deficits increase at a faster rate than those without, research shows
Schools that provide 16-19 education face deficits that are likely to become unsustainable, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has said.
In its report "16-19 Education Funding: Trends and Implications", the thinktank says that local authority-maintained schools with sixth forms had seen accumulated deficits increase at a faster rate than those without sixth forms.

Opinion: Apprenticeships vs sixth-formers: will the DfE have to choose?  

Quick link: Commission calls for 16-19 student premium

Quick link: All areas of education need more money, Nick Gibb admits

The proportion of schools with sixth forms that were in deficit increased from 12 per cent in 2010-11 to 22 per cent in 2017-18, compared with an increase from only 6 to 9 per cent among those without sixth forms.

For schools providing 16-19 education, this rate of increase in accumulated deficits was “very unlikely to be sustainable over time, and makes 16-19 providers more vulnerable to funding shocks that may compromise their provision”, the report says.

The cost of sixth forms

Regarding in-year deficits, the EPI says these affected 54 per cent of local authority maintained schools with sixth forms in 2017-18, compared with 37 per cent in 2010-11.

For academies with sixth forms, the proportion with in-year deficits rose from 39 per cent in 2012-13 to 51 per cent in 2016-17. 

Funding for school sixth forms declined by 26 per cent per full-time student from £6,280 to £4,680 between 2010-11 and 2018-19, but by only 18 per cent to £5,150 in sixth-form colleges and FE colleges.

EPI executive chair and former education minister David Laws said: "It is not clear why successive governments have chosen to squeeze 16-19 funding, and there is a strong case for reviewing the adequacy of funding before the upcoming Spending Review.

“The government should also consider if enough is being done to support disadvantaged students, who are disproportionately concentrated in FE colleges, where teacher pay is significantly lower than that in school sixth forms."

It found no clear relationship between the funding squeeze and the Ofsted rating of 16-19 providers, though schools generally performed better than FE colleges.

Teachers were significantly better off financially in schools than in colleges. The EPI says teacher wages in further education colleges averaged £31,000 and so were 17 per cent lower than the £36,700 seen in secondary schools.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “This comprehensive and important report exposes the reality of government cuts to 16-19 education, which now amount to a real-terms cut of 24 per cent since 2010. The consequences are dire, with the number of teaching hours students receive falling by an average of 65 hours per year over just four years.”

Mr Courtney called on the government to “reverse this as a matter of urgency”.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Mark Smulian

Latest stories