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Unions concerned over sixth-form college cuts

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Teaching unions have hit out at news that cash-strapped sixth-form colleges have been forced to cancel courses after a series of funding cuts.

In its annual funding impact survey, published today, the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) reveals 96 per cent of principals are concerned about the financial health of their college and more than a third think it is likely that their college will cease to be a going concern by 2020.

More than 70 per cent of colleges have had to cut courses, including modern foreign languages and Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects because of funding cuts since 2011.

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said the findings were “very worrying”.

“Funding cuts for young people over the age of 16 are severely damaging opportunities for them to access high-quality education,” she said.

“Forcing sixth-form colleges to withdraw courses in modern languages and Stem subjects is illogical at a time when employers are desperate for entrants with these skills and knowledge.”

She said the future for sixth-form colleges looked “bleak”, and said ATL was worried few would survive the upcoming area-based reviews.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said the findings highlighted the “stark reality” of the government’s economic policies.

“It is extremely disappointing that the range of courses on offer in sixth form colleges is being reduced and that opportunities available for young people are being narrowed as a result of the government's policies for schools and colleges,” she said.

“The government has to recognise that a common funding system for schools and colleges requires there to be a level playing field.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, called the report a “blow” to the government’s desire to increase the take-up of languages and Stem subjects.

“In order to maintain choice and quality across the education system, the government needs to listen to professionals on the ground and provide the funding needed to secure the range and depth of A-levels pupils need to succeed,” he said.

The Department for Education said it had protected the schools budget and ended the “unfair difference” between post-16 schools and colleges by funding them per student, rather than discriminating between qualifications.

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