Sixth-form colleges are facing a grim future of staff reductions and increased class sizes as funding cuts bite, according to a survey of principals. Research by the Secondary Heads Association reveals nine out of 10 institutions expect to run more crowded classes in 1996-7 as a result of cutbacks.
The survey, based on responses from 94 of the country's 110 sixth-form colleges, shows that 70 per cent plan to reduce staff by not filling vacancies, while more than four out of 10 anticipate redundancies in teaching and support staff. Total job losses are set to top 300.
Cuts are also leading to reductions in courses on offer. Among those facing the axe are not only minority subjects such as Latin and religious studies A-levels, but also GNVQs in health and social care, media studies and science.
Historically, sixth-form colleges have been more generously funded than their general further education counterparts. When they left local authority control in 1993, sixth-form institutions were cushioned to some extent by the new funding mechanism, helping them to weather the drive for efficiency gains.
Now, however, the squeeze is tightening and the first compulsory redundancies in this area of the sector are on the cards, according to one prominent principal.
The research by SHA, which represents 90 per cent of sixth-form college principals, finds over two-thirds of those surveyed will increase staff contact time as a result of budget cuts. Building programmes have also been hit; almost half of respondents expect to cancel or postpone capital projects. The casualties include disabled facilities, classroom blocks and IT suites.
The survey concludes that sixth-form colleges are struggling to maintain their traditionally strong record on extra-curricular provision and on pastoral care.
"The overall tone of the comments was one of depression and fear for the future", it says. The actual position may be worse than the survey reveals, says SHA, because in many colleges cuts have already occurred.
The study also reveals institutions' fear for future staffing because of their inability to match teachers' pay in the school sector - the typical starting point of most sixth-form college staff.