Funding cuts ‘punish colleges’

13 May 19

Sixth-forms and colleges are the biggest losers in education funding having endured cuts double those of schools, research has found.

Between 2010–11 and 2018–19 funding for colleges and sixth-forms fell by 16% compared to 8% in schools, says the Education Policy Institute think-tank.

The fall represents a decrease in funding per student from £5,900 to £4,960, according to the EPI research out today.

The think-tank found that 30 years ago funding for 16- to 19-year-olds was far higher than that for secondary schools but is now lower, with more colleges and sixth-forms going into deficit.

Sixth-form colleges in particular have faced problems, with the percentage reporting deficits rising from 7% in 2010–11 to 36% in 2016–17.

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said: “This research shows that for many decades, sixth-form and college funding has been the big loser relative to other phases of education.

“It is not clear why successive governments have chosen to squeeze 16–19 funding, and there is a strong case for reviewing the adequacy of funding before the upcoming Spending Review.”

Besides the financial issues, education institutions for 16- to 19-year-olds are failing to provide the same number of teaching hours than a few years ago.

Between 2012–13 and 2016–17, learning hours with a teacher fell by 9% and the EPI report warned that financial issues “may exacerbate these trends further”.

Gerard Domingues-Reig, senior EPI researcher, said: “While it is widely acknowledged that schools are facing growing funding pressures, our research shows that the financial health of sixth forms and colleges is particularly precarious.

“The sharp, real-terms decline in funding over nine years has led to larger deficits in 16–19 education institutions, and has taken place alongside a substantial fall in student learning hours, with declines of over 20% in academic subjects.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment. 

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