From education to employment

Government cuts funding to 18 year olds

The Autumn Statement announced further budget tightening for the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BiS) and Department for Education (DfE) over the next two years amounting to 1.1% of their budget allocation. Five days later we have the first detail of those cuts as the Education Funding Agency (EFA) has announced plans to save £150m (around 90% of the total cut needed) by paying 17.5% less for the full-time education of 18 year olds in comparison with 16 and 17 year olds starting in 2014/15.

The current, unweighted, funding rate for 16, 17 and 18-year-olds is £4,000 per student per year. That’s as opposed to the £5,000 per pupil per year for education in school. The new rate for 16 and 17 year olds is expected to be announced in March, but at the current rate 18 year olds would be funded at £3,200 on average.

Interestingly the EFA said the cut was because most 18 year olds would not need “as much non-qualification provision within their study programmes”, because they will have already benefited from two years of post-16 education.

The change will affect 150,000 18-year-olds including 100,000 in colleges, with the rest in school sixth forms and studying foundation courses in universities. But who are these 18 year olds? Is it true that their needs are less because they have had two years in post-16 education? Might it actually be that these are among some of the most vulnerable young people who have come back into education or out of a period of unemployment? Let’s not forget that this is the credit crunch generation and the groups whose OECD and PISA scores caused such consternation and debate.

In analysing students likely to be affected next year we have found that Milton Keynes College has 552 students currently aged 18 and counting towards the Full Time Rate. This means that under the new funding announcements it will mean a cut for MK College alone of £500,000.

Of this group, 64% (352) are disadvantaged in some way (including prior attainment, deprivation, disability, ALS, Learning Difficulties etc.).Extrapolate that up to the 100,000 18-year-olds in colleges affected by this change and over 64,000 are facing a near £1,000 cut in their education investment at a critical point in their lives. Is this what our MPs want for their newest voters? I think this may have seemed a politically expedient target for budget tightening but not, I would suggest, a sensible one. I am not sure that most people will sleep easy with the idea that some of the more vulnerable in our society are facing spending reductions to their education on the basis of a false premise.

Nick Isles is deputy principal of Milton Keynes College – follow him on Twitter at @dpmkcollege

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