SCHOOL sixth forms and further education colleges are to be funded by the same body - sparking fresh fears that schools will lose out to colleges in funding rounds.
Education Secretary David Blunkett had pledged to protect sixth-form budgets, provided numbers were maintained. But the move to deliver cash via the new Learning and Skills Council may well start a wave of turf wars.
The decision is contained in a new prospectus for the proposed council. The council will have a budget of around pound;6 billion and be responsible for almost six million learners in the post-16 sector.
Legislation will allow new 16-19 institutions to be established by education authorities, colleges, "other promoters" - which could include businesses or churches - and the council itself.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the proposals had profound implications. "We are seeing pound;1 billion of post-16 money taken away from the current LEA funding system and transferred from the spring of 2001 to the LSC, to be re-channelled back to schools via local authorities with, I suspect, a different formula.
"Our support for this is conditional on government providing enough money to deliver the broader 2000 curriculum. Schools will have to fight their corner and make sure the spurious allegation made by the colleges about inequitable funding does not win the day."
The LSC will have 47 local arms which will be responsible for analysing local needs and deciding how the national funding formula rates might be
varied to individual circumstances.
If school sixth forms show serious weaknesses, the local arms will have powers to intervene. As a last resort, the LSC would be able to propose closure. The power to act would be triggered if the sixth form had failed to address weaknesses identified by the Office for Standards in Education.
Local authorities, says the prospectus, will be central partners in the new post-16 arrangements.
Provided that they maintain their current spend on adult education, the authorities will be guaranteed their current funding for the council's first two years at least.
For schools and colleges showing high standards there will a lighter touch inspection system. Monitoring of quality, financial and health and safety arrangements will be integrated - "resulting in fewer visits".