The Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA) makes seven recommendations aimed at all the political parties, on behalf of its 93 members, which between them educate almost 160,000 students.
The organisation wants all students to be able to benefit from a full-time programme of study, and the introduction of a national funding formula, that is based on the actual cost of delivering the curriculum.
The SFCA is also asking a future government to scrap what it calls the “learning tax” by removing the imposition of VAT on sixth form colleges, and to introduce a fairer funding system for students with high needs.
Colleges said they needed a competitive process for establishing new sixth form providers, and more opportunity to collaborate with each other.
The manifesto states that sixth form colleges achieve better exam results and help a greater proportion of their students to progress to higher education than school or academy sixth forms, and that this is achieved through a lower cost to the tax-payer and with a greater proportion of students eligible for free school meals.
However, the organisation raises fears that some sixth form colleges will close or will be forced to offer a reduced curriculum unless changes are made to existing funding arrangements.
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association, said: “Our manifesto shows that Sixth Form Colleges are the most effective and efficient providers of sixth form education in the state sector.
“However, a series of damaging policy changes introduced in recent years will see some sixth form colleges close and others forced to offer an impoverished curriculum. To ensure that they can continue to transform the life chances of young people, we are calling on all political parties to put students first by dropping the learning tax and adopting the recommendations in this manifesto.”
The document was launched at the SFCA Autumn Conference in Birmingham where Nick Boles MP, minister for skills and equalities, and Kevin Brennan MP, shadow education minister, addressed college leaders.