Sixth forms' cash crisis

18th July 2008 at 01:00
Schools threaten to cut staff from under-16s to finance demand for places from older pupils
Schools threaten to cut staff from under-16s to finance demand for places from older pupils

School sixth forms are facing serious funding shortfalls as the Government seeks to persuade pupils to stay in education beyond the age of 16, The TES can reveal.

The Learning and Skills Council is funding only a 2 per cent rise in the number of teenagers staying at school beyond GCSE. But schools are predicting a 7 per cent rise, a difference many are warning could see sixth form places "rationed".

Deficits of more than pound;100,000 are being predicted in some sixth forms. Heads say it would be "immoral" not to provide teaching for students who want it. This looks likely to have a knock on effect for lower years at the schools affected as the pinch is felt at all levels.

One secondary, Valley School in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, warns it may have to cut staffing for 11- to 16-year-olds because of a deficit of more than pound;100,000 in the budget of a sixth form centre it shares with another school.

Cox Green School at Maidenhead, Berkshire, has a shortfall of more than pound;140,000, meaning that the college faces going into the red to pay for its popularity. Ian Hylan, the head, said: "This is a travesty. We are being encouraged to help youngsters expand their opportunities and we will not turn any student away: to do so would be immoral, given the work we do encouraging students to stay on."

Until 2007, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funded schools according to the previous year's level. This year, schools are asked to estimate the numbers they expect in the sixth form for 2008-9.

Last year, numbers enrolled in school sixth forms rose by 7,000 to 377,500. This year, the schools predict a rise of 28,000 to 403,500, which the LSC believes is an overestimate. It is believed to be funding only an extra 6,500 places.

Funding experts believe that the schools' figures are inflated, and that those whose predictions were realistic are now being penalised by the over-optimism of others.

Lindsay Wharmby, funding consultant at the Association for School and College Leaders, said: "The schools that took the exercise seriously and put in realistic figures have been seriously disadvantaged by schools that overestimated."

The LSC's room for manoeuvre is further limited, The TES understands, by having to prioritise funding for 3,000 extra places in academies and new sixth forms.

Nine schools have signed a letter to The TES, warning: "The LSC and the Department for Children, Schools and Families are, in effect, rationing sixth form education."

Verity Bullough, the LSC's national director of funding planning and performance, said that overall sixth form cash for 200809 is increasing by pound;94 million to pound;1.88 billion, an increase of 5.2 per cent. "Two-thirds of schools will have an increase in their funding," she said.

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