The architect of the Government's education reforms for teenagers has warned that colleges must get the same funding as schools if his plans are to work.
Former schools chief inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson spoke as the Association of Colleges made its latest push to convince ministers to give them more cash for the teaching of 16 to 19-year-olds.
The proposals of Sir Mike's 14-19 working group are expected to take up to 10 years to come into effect. But he says the funding gap must be closed urgently because colleges are already meeting one of his key recommendations by providing vocational training for pupils.
He said the Government's vision of a distinct 14-19 phase of education needs to be backed up with cash. He told FE Focus: "The previous secretary of state (Charles Clarke) made it quite clear that he wanted a 14 to 19 phase. Implicit in that idea is to have a level playing field of funding for all institutions in that phase of education. We don't have that level playing field now.
"The work being done for schools by colleges is being done partly for cash and partly out of goodwill. Colleges can't afford that. What I have also said to the AoC is this is also about the training and terms and conditions of lecturers.
"Over time the differences in funding between schools and colleges will need to be removed and the salaries and terms and conditions (including the training) of teachers and lecturers be brought under a common system."
The AoC says school sixth-forms get 10 per cent more cash per student, than general FE or sixth-form colleges or an average of pound;500,000 per institution.
Last year, the Tomlinson report stressed that pay inequality between lecturers and school teachers needed addressing as colleges took on more 14 to 16-year-olds. He is now taking this further by saying the overall funding of colleges needs to be the same for pupils on similar courses - not just to achieve pay parity, but to provide the necessary quality of vocational training.
His latest comments came as the AoC renewed its campaign to close the funding gap. John Brennan, its chief executive, said: "It is indefensible that the two-thirds of young learners who study in colleges, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds, are being short-changed."
The Secondary Heads Association says it supports equal funding for colleges.
The AoC staged a press conference attended by more than 60 students to renew its call for funding parity in London yesterday.
Its campaign is backed by celebrities including actor and comedian Stephen Fry, who was an A-level student at City college Norwich. Another is Robbie Paul, who plays rugby league for the national squad and is captain of the Bradford Bulls.
Mr Paul, a former art and design student at Bradford college, said: "I am happy to lend my support to Bradford college and the Association of Colleges' campaign to secure fair funding for 16 to 19-year-olds."
A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said: "We know the Learning and Skills Council have been raising the funding per course.
We are bringing up the funding levels in FE without penalising schools."