Funding Impact Survey 2016

According to research by the Sixth Form Colleges Association two thirds of colleges have dropped courses as a result of funding cuts. The result is a narrow and part-time sixth form experience and compromised standards and social mobility and, according to the report’s authors, the findings should act as a wake-up call to government. In September 2016, the Sixth Form Colleges Association conducted an online survey of all 90 Sixth Form Colleges in England. More than 160,000 16 to 18 years olds are currently enrolled at a Sixth Form College and the sector is responsible for over 20% of the A levels sat in England each year. Each college was asked to report the cumulative impact of the three funding cuts introduced since 2011 and the recent increase in employer pension and national insurance contributions. In total, 80 Sixth Form College leaders completed the survey – a response rate of 89%. Sixth Form Colleges are the most efficient providers of sixth form education in England. As the sector outperforms school and academy sixth forms while educating more disadvantaged students and receiving less funding, the findings of this year’s survey should act as a wake-up call to government. Research commissioned by SFCA from the Institute of Education supports the assertion that funding pressures are turning sixth form education into a part time experience. It describes sixth form education in England as ‘uniquely narrow and short’ compared to the high performing education systems in Shanghai, Singapore, Sweden and elsewhere. The broad consensus in the profession is that a sixth form curriculum should have the characteristics of a baccalaureate model. In addition to qualifications, values tutorial, support activities, community action and work experience, it should develop the ‘soft’ skills essential to higher level study and employability. However, funding stresses are making this increasingly difficult to offer. This will have clear implications for social mobility – one of the recurring messages in the qualitative responses to the survey was very simple: busy students are successful students. The report notes that while there is now a single national funding formula for 16-19 education, there are still funding differences between Sixth Form Colleges and school/academy sixth forms. The most glaring inequality being the absence of a VAT refund scheme that, according to the survey, left the average Sixth Form College with £385,914 less to spend on the front line education of students last year. The message from the most effective and efficient providers of sixth form education is clear – more investment from government is essential if Sixth Form Colleges, school and academy sixth forms are to continue providing young people with the high quality education they need to progress to higher education and employment. Read the full report