Sixth form colleges are calling for action to end what it calls “substantial inequalities” in student funding.
The median funding per learner in an academy with key stage 4, according to Department for Education data, is £7,880 – whereas the median for sixth form college students is £4,601.
The Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA) also says that their members have to spend VAT on goods and services, unlike schools and academies, costing them an estimated £30 million a year.
The SFCA has published a white paper which sets out recommendations to end what it calls funding anomalies. The publication coincides with the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sixth Form Colleges which is to be chaired by Kelvin Hopkins MP and will look into the funding issue.
The SFCA says that forthcoming changes to the way 16 to 18 education and training is funded will also hit sixth form colleges with a 6.1 per cent reduction in funding, more than other types of institution are facing. The changes will see a standard rate of funding per student but as sixth form colleges tend to have bigger programmes they will be worst hit.
Of the 1,345,000 16 to 18-year-olds in full-time education, 150,000 are currently enrolled with one of the 94 sixth form colleges in England.
An SFCA statement said: “Despite enrolling students with lower levels of prior attainment and higher levels of disadvantage than either academies or school sixth forms, and despite receiving less funding per heads than other 16 to 18 providers, sixth form colleges achieve remarkable results.”
The SFCA wants to see sixth form colleges “funded, inspected and supported” in the same was as other providers in the 16 to 18 market.
Chief executive David Igoe said: “We do not want special treatment, we just want to be treated like other sectors.
“At a time when there is unprecedented pressure on the public finances, it makes little sense for the government to be actively promoting the establishment of new sixth form providers that are not only demonstrably less efficient than sixth form colleges, but also have little or no educational track record.”
Recommendations in the white paper include addressing the anomaly which sees key stage 5 provision funded at a lower rate than key stage 4 and post-18.
The SFCA is also calling for a VAT exemption and insurance rebate to match that of schools and academies.