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Cuts threaten sixth form colleges

15th January 2016

Sixth form colleges are under threat. Funding cuts threaten jobs and courses whilst Government reorganisation plans put colleges at risk of merger or closure.

The NUT's campaigning on sixth form college funding is having an impact. Our lobby of Parliament in November was attended by many NUT sixth form college members who told MPs about the impact of 16-19 cuts. Our lobbying clearly had an effect on the Comprehensive Spending Review, but all that Chancellor George Osborne has done is slow down the pace of the cuts.

The NUT is proposing a national campaign of parental and public engagement leading to a national demonstration combined with a national day of strike action. The demonstration and strike would take place in March to focus attention on the Government's plans for our colleges.

1. Funding for 16-19 year olds fell by 14% in real terms under the Coalition Government.
2. Although the Chancellor promised in November to protect 16-19 funding per student in cash terms up to 2020, inflation will mean that it will be cut by another 8% in real terms over the next four years.
3. The cumulative impact of funding cuts since 2011 meant by August 2015 that 72% of sixth form colleges had to drop courses and 81% of them had increased class sizes.
4. Unlike schools and academies, sixth form colleges pay VAT on goods and services costing them £30 million a year. The Chancellor has said that allowing sixth form colleges to become academies will end this anomaly, but it is not clear that all sixth form colleges will be able to become academies.
5. Pensions and National Insurance contributions for employers will increase during 2015-16. Funding for colleges will not rise to take account of these increases.
6. Funding for students who are already 18 was cut by 17.5 per cent from September 2014 and this cut has continued from September 2015.
7. Entitlement funding for activities such as tutorials, enrichment activities and additional courses was reduced from 114 hours per year to 30 hours in 2010.
8. Education Maintenance Allowances for students from low-income households that totalled £560 million were replaced in 2011 with a Bursary Fund of £180 million.
9. Even with a common post-16 funding formula, in 2013/2014 funding per learner was £4,560 in sixth form colleges compared to £5,013 in school sixth forms. Meanwhile, funding per learner in independent school sixth forms was £13,431 (the average day student fee in 2013).
10. The Sixth Form Colleges' Association has calculated that sixth form colleges have lost more than £100 million of funding since 2010. In contrast, the Government agreed to spend £45 million in 2014 to establish just one 16-19 free school in Westminster at a cost of about £90,000 for each student.

Area based reviews

The Government's "area based reviews" of 16-19 education threaten many sixth form colleges with closure or merger with larger FE colleges. These reviews aim for fewer and larger providers and will have covered every area of the country by 2017. Fewer sixth form colleges will be bad for the education of young people and undermine the Government's aims of increasing productivity and growth. It has been estimated that sixth form colleges add £418 million to the economy, through achieving better outcomes than school and academy sixth forms.

The funding pressures which the Government will use to justify mergers and closures have been created as a result of its own policy of slashing 16-19 funding. The underlying problem is underfunding of 16-19 education. That won't be addressed by merging institutions. These mergers will also put pronounced downward pressure on pay and conditions, in the name of harmonising sixth form college teachers with FE lecturers. The review recommendations will only cover FE and sixth form colleges. Any objective and comprehensive analysis of how to support high quality 16-19 education must treat all providers, including school and academy sixth forms, equally.


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