Further education and sixth form spending in England


This report from UK think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies looks at the long-term growth in the numbers of young people pursuing education after age 16

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire education sector has faced a period of unprecedented challenge in seeking to provide remote lessons and support to students. In addition to these challenges, sixth forms and colleges are contending with a number of specific and long-running issues. A combination of long-term changes and higher GCSE results in 2020 means that the number of 16- and 17-year-olds in full-time education has increased to a historically high level. This has put pressure on spending and resources, which were already at relatively low levels following large cuts to spending per student over the previous decade. In this note, we analyse how participation in and spending on 16–18 education have evolved over recent years. We document the long-term growth in the numbers of young people pursuing education after age 16. We then turn to assessing how spending levels in further education have changed in recent years. While the government allocated an additional £400 million to sixth forms and colleges in 2020–21, we show that the growth in student numbers means that this extra money only reverses a very small fraction of the cuts experienced over the last decade.

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