Future of sixth-form colleges under ‘serious threat’, report claims

The future of sixth-form colleges in England is under “serious threat” because of government funding cuts, according to a new report.

The Sixth Form Colleges’ Association’s (SFCA) annual funding impact survey, published today, show many principals fear for the future.

Some 70 per cent do not believe the amount of funding they are likely to receive next year will be enough to give students a high quality education, while 83 per cent do not believe it will allow them to support disadvantaged students.

Almost all leaders (96 per cent) are either extremely concerned or concerned about the financial health of their college and, more than a third (36 per cent), said it was either extremely likely or likely that their college will cease to be a going concern by 2020.

The survey also reveals 72 per cent of sixth-form colleges have had to cut courses as a result of funding cuts since 2011, with 39 per cent dropping A-level modern foreign language subjects and 24 per cent cutting Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

Additionally, more than three quarters of colleges (76 per cent) have reduced or removed extra-curricular activities including sport, music and drama, and educational visits.

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said the report highlights the “damage” to students caused by the three funding cuts imposed on sixth-form colleges since 2011.

“The sector cannot survive on starvation rations, and without more investment, sixth form colleges will be unable to provide young people with the high quality education they need to progress to higher education and employment,” he said.

He called on the government to carry out an urgent review of funding and end the inequalities between sixth-form colleges and the rest of the school sector, especially the absence of a VAT refund scheme, which it is estimated costs the average college more than £300,000.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We have 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. We have provided sufficient funds for every full-time student to do a full timetable of courses – and increased support for those who successfully study four or more A-levels and large TechBacc programmes.

“Thousands more students are staying in education or training after the age of 16, giving them the skills and experience they need to thrive at university, work or an apprenticeship.”

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