Funding for 16-19 Education and Sixth Form Colleges


  • Whilst ministers claim they have protected the schools budget from the worst of the austerity cuts that is certainly not true for funding for 16-19 year olds whose funding fell by 14 per cent in real terms between 2010-11 and 2014-15. 1  The Chancellor announced on 25 November 2015 that 16-19 funding will be protected in cash terms between 2016 and 2020.  Taking inflation into account, however, this is still likely to mean a real terms cut of 8 per cent over the next four years.2
  • The Sixth Form Colleges’ Association has calculated that sixth form colleges have already lost £100 million of funding since 2010.  In contrast, £45 million was allocated by Government to establish just one 16-19 free school in Westminster at a cost of about £90,000 for each student.3
  • The cumulative impact of funding cuts since 2011 meant by August 2015 that 72 per cent of sixth form colleges had to drop courses and 81 per cent of them had increased class sizes.4 
  • The Government is carrying out a programme of “area-based reviews” of post-16 provision. The aims of the programme include moving towards “fewer, often larger, more resilient and efficient providers.” The obvious threat is that this will increase the pressure on FE and sixth form colleges towards merger, resulting in fewer sixth form colleges.5
  • Funding for students who are already aged 18 was cut by 17.5 per cent from September 2014; and the funding rate for 16-19 education in 2015-16 has again been frozen at £4,000 in cash terms, which is a cut in real terms.6
  • Sixth form colleges have to pay VAT on goods and services – costing them £30 million a year - while schools and academies are reimbursed for these costs. Ministers decided in late 2013 not to reimburse colleges despite cross-party support for ending this anomaly.7  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.8
  • School and academy sixth form funding has been cut by even more than sixth form colleges in line with the Government’s decision to remove the school/sixth form college funding gap by levelling down provision in schools.9
  • A new funding formula for 16-19 education might reduce funding per student even more from September 2016.10
  • Over 150,000 young people are enrolled at one of the 93 sixth form colleges with a third drawn from the least advantaged areas. Funding inequalities are likely to impact on learners from more disadvantaged backgrounds in particular, despite sixth form colleges’ success in sending more young people to higher education than independent schools.11
  • Education Maintenance Allowances for students from low-income households that totalled £560 million were replaced in 2011 with a Bursary Fund of £180 million.12
  • Entitlement funding for activities such as tutorials, enrichment activities and additional courses was reduced from 114 hours per year to 30 hours in 2011.  Sixth form colleges saw an overall reduction in funding of around 10 per cent due to this cut.13

1 Luke Sibieta (2015), Schools Spending: IFS Briefing Note BN 168.  Economic and Social Research Council, page 4.  Available here  David Igoe et al (2015), Costing the Sixth Form Curriculum, London; Sixth Form Colleges Association, page 9.  Available here.

2TES, 25 November 2015.  Available here.

3Huffington Post, 29 March 2014.  Available hereThe Independent, 3 February 2014.  Available here.

4 James Kewin and Laura Janowski (2015), SFCA Funding Impact Survey Report 2015, London; Sixth Form Colleges Association, pages 2-3.  Available here.

5 James Kewin and Laura Janowski (2015), ibid, page 9.

6 Peter Mucklow (2015), Funding for academic year 2015 to 2016 for students aged 16 to 19 and students aged 16 to 25 with an education, health and care plan/learning difficulty assessment, Coventry; Education Funding Agency, page 1.  Available here.

7 James Kewin (2014), Briefing: VAT and Sixth Form Colleges, London; Sixth Form Colleges Association, pages 1-2.  Available here.
Graham Stuart MP (2015), Fairer Funding for Sixth Form Colleges, London; House of Commons.  Available here.

8TES, 25 November 2015.  Available here.

9 Simon Judge (2013), Response to the Education Select Committee Questions on the Department for Education Main Estimate 2013-14, London; Department for Education, page 2.  Available here.

10 David Igoe et al (2015), ibid, page 5.

11 James Kewin (2012), Sixth Form Colleges and Funding: Summary for Stakeholders v2, London; Sixth Form Colleges Forum, page 2.  Available here.  James Kewin and Laura Janowski (2015), ibid, pages 8-9. 

12 Press Release (2011), £180 Million New Bursary Scheme to help the Most Vulnerable 16- to 19-year-olds, London; Department for Education.  Available here.

13 James Kewin and Laura Janowski (2015), ibid, page 1.

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