New analysis from the House of Commons Library reveals that the budget for sixth form and further education colleges could fall by at least £1.6 billion under Tory spending plans. This is the equivalent of four in ten sixth form and further education colleges.
The Government has launched area reviews into post-16 institutions, making clear their intention to close down some colleges. This new analysis shows that half of all sixth form colleges and one third of further education colleges could come under threat.
Recent reports have found that colleges are already on “starvation rations” after the funding cuts over the last parliament. This has led to many courses being dropped, particularly in subjects that are key to our country’s competitiveness such as modern languages and STEM, larger class sizes, and the scrapping of extracurricular sport, music, and educational visits.
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell MP, said:
“It is simply not possible to build a 21st century economy on falling investment in education. Yet this Government is putting post-16 education on a cliff edge, harming opportunities for the next generation and holding our young people and our country back.
“Before the last election, Labour committed to protecting the whole education budget from the early years to 19, because we value the entire journey of a child through education, including early years and post-16. Under the Tories, these areas face cuts, putting four in ten colleges under threat of closure.
“This country’s future success depends upon making sure every young person has the opportunities they need to fulfil their potential. At the moment, the Government’s narrow and backward-looking plan for education is simply not up to that task.”
David Batten, Principal and CEO at Barrow-in-Furness Sixth Form College, said:
“As funding has been repeatedly cut and costs have risen, for example through rising employer’s pension contributions, it has been impossible to maintain our offer to our students and so, with great reluctance and regret, we have had to stop teaching some subjects such as Spanish, design and technology, music technology and religious studies. In other small subjects staff have been creative about ways in which first and second year A-level students can be taught together.
“We have made many efficiency savings already; we have restructured management, increased workloads, cut non-pays costs, especially energy and have had to say goodbye to many good colleagues but we are getting to the point where the funding available for sixth form students, which is less than that available for a school pupil and far less than that for a university undergraduate, is simply not enough to offer a good education to students and to keep a small sixth form college running.
“Local students risk not having a broad A level curriculum on offer to them and not having the wonderful opportunity of studying at a specialist sixth form college providing excellent value for money, where students make excellent progress, achieving better results than expected given their GCSE performance and which every year sends a large proportion of students on to university who are the first in their families to have that opportunity.
“Local young people are underrepresented in higher education and insufficient funding for sixteen to eighteen year olds will reduce the impact we can have on raising aspirations, enhancing social mobility and changing lives for the better.”