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News archive - May/June 2019

Sixth-form colleges losing out in budget battles

Sixth-form colleges losing out in budget battles

A new report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) examines the financial health of sixth forms and colleges in England, revealing the extent of the funding squeeze affecting these institutions.

The report, commissioned by Pearson, considers 16-19 education funding, which includes school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and further education colleges.

Among its findings, the report shows that:

  • Between 2010/11 and 2018/19, real terms funding per student in school sixth forms, sixth form colleges, and further education (FE) colleges declined substantially, by 16 per cent, from £5,900 to £4,960. This is twice the rate that the overall schools budget fell by between 2009/10 and 2017/18 (8 per cent).
  • Funding in school sixth forms declined by 26 per cent per full time student from 2010/11 to 2018/19. In the further education sector (sixth form colleges and FE colleges), funding declined by 18 per cent per full time student. Within this, funding for sixth form colleges fell faster than in FE colleges.
  • Despite funding being shifted towards disadvantaged students over this period, students in all institutions have experienced real terms funding cuts.
  • 16-19 education has been the biggest real terms loser of any phase of education since 2010/11, but it has also suffered from a long run squeeze in funding: 30 years ago, 16-19 funding was far higher (almost 1.5 times) than secondary school funding, but is now lower.
  • The financial health of 16-19 providers has significantly deteriorated since 2010/11: the proportion of those with in-year deficits has increased across all institutions, with a particularly large rise seen in sixth form colleges: a five-fold increase of 7 to 36 per cent from 2010/2011 to 2016/17.
  • An increasing number of local authority schools with sixth forms are in financial difficulty – the proportion with cumulative deficits has risen significantly from 12 per cent of schools in 2010/11 to 22 per cent in 2017/18. In contrast, schools without sixth forms have only seen rises of 6 per cent to 9 per cent.