16-19 education funding: trends and implications

This report from the UK think tank Education Policy Institute (EPI) examines the financial health of sixth forms and colleges in England, revealing the extent of the funding squeeze affecting these institutions.

The report considers 16-19 education funding, which includes school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and further education colleges. Funding levels and the quality of provision in sixth forms and colleges can have a huge impact on life chances. They also affect the vast majority of young people: between the age of 16 and 19, three-quarters of all young people attend these institutions. At present, there are a total of 1.4 million students enrolled in England. This report provides the most up to date assessment of funding in these institutions, revealing the latest figures for 2018/19. The research explores the impact on different types of institutions and groups of students across the country. It also considers how funding has affected qualifications, teacher wages and the quality of education on offer.

The research finds that real terms funding per student has fallen sharply by 16% from 2010/11 to 2018/19: twice the decline of schools (8%). Sixth forms and colleges are also increasingly falling into deficit: the proportion of those with in-year deficits has increased across all institutions, with a particularly large rise seen in sixth form colleges: a five-fold increase of 7 to 36 per cent from 2010/2011 to 2016/17. Student learning hours and staff wages have both deteriorated over recent years. Learning hours with a teacher for students in all 16-19 institutions fell by 9 per cent between 2012/13 and 2016/17. The report calls for the government to urgently review the adequacy of 16-19 education funding ahead of this year’s Spending Review.

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