From education to employment

New report finds significant shortfall in funding for sixth form students

uni students standing outside

A new report has found that sixth-form colleges will require an additional £710 of funding per student in 2025 to keep pace with rising costs and ensure that every young person receives the education and support they need.

The report, The Funding Shortfall in Sixth Form Education, was produced by London Economics on behalf of the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA). It finds that in real terms, average funding for sixth form colleges in 2023/24 is 15% lower than it was in 2010/11 – £5,760 per student compared to £6,820 per student. 

To ensure that funding in 2025/26 simply remains the same in real terms as in 2023/24, sixth-form colleges would require an extra £410 per student to keep pace with rising costs. To provide young people with the additional hours of student support (e.g. mental health and welfare services) and non-qualification time (e.g. employability training, tutorial activities) that colleges report is desperately needed would require a further £300 per student.  

London Economics also calculated the additional cost of delivering an extra 2.5 hours of teaching time per week, a key element of the government’s proposed Advanced British Standard qualification. This would require an additional £1,760 per student to deliver the additional teaching hours (including the £710 required to keep pace with costs and provide the required level of student support/non-qualification time).  

The research from London Economics has been used to inform the first of six priorities in the Sixth Form Colleges Association’s election manifesto, which is also published today. The SFCA manifesto calls for the sixth form funding rate to be increased by at least £710 “for every 16, 17 and 18 year old studying on a full-time basis”. Raising the rate is described as “the only way to ensure that funding is made available in a way that enables colleges to tailor resources to meet the individual needs of students”. 

The manifesto sets out five other priorities for sixth-form education to address what it describes as “the disastrous plan to scrap BTEC qualifications, uncoordinated policy making, the inexorable rise of government bureaucracy, and the ongoing teacher recruitment and retention crisis” alongside the “short supply” of capital funding.  

SFCA urges all political parties to adopt the following priorities to “ensure that all sixth form students in England receive the education and support they need to prosper”:

  1. Raise the rate of funding for sixth-form students by at least £710 per year
  2. Protect student choice by retaining BTECs alongside A levels and T levels 
  3. Co-ordinate policy-making and cut bureaucracy
  4. Tackle the teacher recruitment and retention crisis
  5. Create capital funds for expansion and maintenance 
  6. Conduct an evidence-based review of the sixth-form curriculum 

Commenting on the publication of The Funding Shortfall in Sixth Form Education, Maike Halterbeck, Divisional Director at London Economics, said:

“Sixth Form Colleges have seen a significant real-term funding erosion since 2010/11, and even the additional funds allocated in recent spending reviews have done little to reverse this trend. With colleges continuing to face substantial cost pressures and insufficient resources to provide core student support and enrichment activities that meet students’ needs, this report outlines the substantial additional funding for sixth-form education that is required. As a core component of young people’s educational journey, it is important that funding for sixth form education does not continue to fall behind”.

Commenting on the publication of the London Economics report and the SFCA Manifesto, Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said:

“Today’s report from London Economics highlights the need for significant additional investment in sixth-form education. Sixth-form colleges will require an additional £710 per student next year simply to keep pace with rising costs and support the delivery of the current number of teaching hours. Mental health, welfare and employability services are not ‘nice to haves’, they are essential elements of the support that sixth form colleges provide to students. That is why raising the rate of funding is the priority in our election manifesto. We urge all political parties to adopt all six of our priorities ahead of this year’s election to ensure that sixth-form students in England receive the education and support they need to prosper”.

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