News: End funding disadvantage for sixth-form colleges, MPs urged

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The government should “level the playing field for post-16 education” in England, the Sixth Form Colleges Association will tell MPs on Tuesday.

Sixth-form colleges suffer an unfair disadvantage in funding, a paper from the association will say.

It will highlight official figures showing median funding per learner in academies is £7,880 – but only £4,601 in sixth-form colleges.

The government said from 2015 reforms “would end a historic unfairness”.

Some 150,000 16-18-year-olds are currently studying at England’s 94 sixth-form colleges – but funding difficulties mean many colleges fear for the future, says the report.

It says the colleges outperform all other providers of 16-18 education, in terms of value for money and outcomes for students, with inspections judging 76% of sixth-form colleges “good” or “outstanding”.

Some 14% of students accepted to higher education come from sixth-form colleges, while independent schools supply 10%, says the paper. And sixth-form colleges tend to attract students with lower GCSE grades and higher levels of deprivation than either academies or school sixth forms.

But sixth-form pupils attract less funding than younger age groups – and unlike schools or academies, sixth-form colleges are charged VAT on goods and services and have to pay their own insurance costs.

On top of this, says the paper, sixth-form colleges have been hit hard by cuts, while the government has offered preferential funding to academies and free schools with sixth forms.

It calls for students to receive the same amount of funding for their education, irrespective of the type of institution at which they study.

“It makes little sense for the government to be actively promoting the establishment of new sixth-form providers that are not only demonstrably less efficient than sixth-form colleges, but also have little or no educational track record”, said David Igoe, of the Sixth Form Colleges Association.

“Our members do not want special treatment. They just want to be treated like other sectors.

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