19 January 2017
Responding to today's DfE publication of performance tables, Bill Watkin, SFCA Chief Executive said:
‘Recent government changes to the assessment and accountability regimes are for the first time having an impact on outcome performance measure. One consequence is that it is difficult to make year-on-year comparisons in a way that has previously been possible. However, it is clear that Sixth Form Colleges continue to perform extremely well.
They have higher A-level and Academic point score per entry than academies or school sixth forms and a higher average point score in the best 3 A levels than school sixth forms. Similarly, they have a better A level and academic value added score than academies and school sixth forms. Perhaps unsurprisingly, with the changes comes a generally slightly lower value added score across all providers, except in the case of applied general qualifications. The specialist expertise, together with the breadth of curriculum and the scale involved ensure that, again, Sixth Form Colleges are outstandingly successful in securing excellent results and top university places for their students’
13 September 2016
New blog by James Kewin, SFCA Deputy Chief Executive - SFCA's position on plans to extend selective education
Click here to read the full article.
26 August 2016
Click here to read the full article
4 August 2016
Responding to today’s publication of the UCAS Factors associated with predicted and achieved A level attainment report, Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“I am pleased to say that overall Sixth Form Colleges are good at making accurate predictions of performance at A Level. It is true that it may be harder to predict the performance of students starting out with low GCSE grades. This is because they have a longer improvement journey to take, they make more progress during their time at college, their progress journey is less uniform and there is more room for variation.
Of course, at this time of great change to what students learn and how they are examined, it is increasingly difficult for teachers to predict results with the same degree of accuracy that we have been used to, with any student, whatever the starting point, but what we can be sure of is that Sixth Form Colleges are good at predicting grades, and the excellent results they predict are usually borne out by the excellent results they achieve.”
16 May 2016
Under HMRC rules, if a Sixth Form College changes its status to become a 16-19 academy, there is a risk this could trigger the repayment of VAT relief received on buildings that were completed after March 2011. This could mean that a policy introduced to reduce the VAT burden on Sixth Form Colleges would actually see some pay significantly more.
The Sixth Form Colleges' Association has been campaigning on this issue on behalf of the sector, Kelvin Hopkins MP also wrote a letter on behalf of the APPG for Sixth Form Colleges earlier this month which was co-signed by 51 other MPs. We are pleased to confirm, as stated in the Chancellor's formal reply to the APPG letter, the Government has agreed to reimburse in full those Sixth Form Colleges that face this VAT charge as a result of becoming a 16-19 academy. This is not a loan – the VAT charge will be reimbursed.
A similar guarantee has also been made to Sixth Form Colleges and FE colleges that decide to merge.
9 May 2016
Click here to read the full article
5 May 2016
MPs urge Chancellor to address “unintended consequence” of decision to allow Sixth Form Colleges to become academies
A cross-party group of 52 MPs has written to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, urging him to address an “unintended consequence” of the recent decision to allow Sixth Form Colleges to become 16-19 academies. In November’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that Sixth Form Colleges would have the opportunity to become academies “so they no longer have to pay VAT”. But the group of cross-party MPs has pointed out that under HMRC rules, colleges that become academies could actually end up paying more VAT.
The letter has been signed by Kelvin Hopkins MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sixth Form Colleges, with support from Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee and Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, along with 49 other MPs.
According to the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA), the average Sixth Form College currently pays an average of £317,964 per year in VAT. SFCA describe this as a tax on learning that redirects funding away from the front line education of students. By becoming an academy, Sixth Form Colleges would have their VAT costs refunded to bring them in line with all other schools and academies. But under HMRC rules, academisation could also trigger the repayment of VAT relief that colleges have received on buildings completed after March 2011.
The MPs, many of whom represent constituencies that either contain or are served by a Sixth Form College, write that “this appears to be the result of an unforeseen technicality” but urge the Chancellor to clarify the situation as a matter of urgency “to enable Sixth Form Colleges to make an informed choice about their future”. Sixth Form Colleges only have the opportunity to academise through the Government’s one-off restructuring of post-16 education and training, and this process is already drawing to a close in some areas.
Commenting on the letter, Chair of the APPG for Sixth Form Colleges, Kelvin Hopkins MP said: “For some Sixth Form Colleges, the cost of having to repay the VAT relief received on science blocks, sports halls and other buildings would run into millions of pounds and would dwarf the financial benefits of having their annual VAT costs refunded. We do not believe the Government wants Sixth Form Colleges to pay more VAT but the Chancellor needs to clarify the situation as soon as possible”.
James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said: “It would make little sense if a policy introduced to reduce the VAT burden on Sixth Form Colleges actually saw them pay more VAT. We are pleased that so many MPs have urged the Chancellor to address this issue, and a swift resolution is essential if Sixth Form Colleges are to make sensible, well-informed decisions about their future.
23 February 2016
New SFCA Chief Executive
The Sixth Form Colleges’ Association has appointed Bill Watkin, currently Operational Director at the Schools, Students and Teachers Network (SSAT), as its new Chief Executive.
The appointment was announced today by SFCA Chair, Eddie Playfair:
“Following a successful recruitment process, we are delighted to announce the appointment of Bill Watkin as our new Chief Executive. Bill is a great advocate for educational excellence and social justice and he has the vision, skills and experience to help lead our sector through what will certainly be a period of significant change. We are confident that he will be a great champion for our work and will help us make an even more significant contribution to the educational landscape.”
Since 2006, Bill has worked for SSAT, a membership organisation for schools, leading its work on the academies programme, developing policy and supporting academy leaders, governors, sponsors, and operators. Bill has a national media profile and has been described by the BBC as “a key opinion former in education.”
Bill started his career as a teacher of Modern Foreign Languages in secondary schools and developed his work as a national consultant on curriculum matters. He has written a French text book and many publications on education. He has also sat on a number of boards, including two Multi-Academy Trusts, the Centre for High Performance, the DfE Capital Consultative Forum and the EFA Learner Support Consultative Forum.
Bill said: “This is a very exciting time for the Sixth Form Colleges Association and I am looking forward to working with member colleges across the country to ensure that their outstanding work is recognised and celebrated and that they continue to play a vital role in leading system-wide improvements across all phases of education.”
Bill will take up the post on Monday 18th April following the retirement of current SFCA Chief Executive, David Igoe.
28 January 2016
Responding to today’s publication of the UCAS Progression pathways report, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“Although Sixth Form Colleges deliver around one fifth of the A levels sat in England each year, BTECs are growing in popularity. Our latest analysis shows that 88% of Sixth Form Colleges are now offering BTEC qualifications. Study programmes that combine BTEC and A level qualifications are becoming increasingly common and have proved to be a highly effective way of helping young people to progress to higher education and employment. Overall, we think the take up of applied general qualifications and the new Tech levels is likely to increase as schools and colleges adapt to the introduction of the new style A levels.” The full set of UCAS' Progression Pathways resources including the report, advice videos and student case-studies can be found here.
21 Janaury 2016
Responding to today’s publication of the 2015 school and college performance tables, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“Parents and students should look beyond the headlines of today’s performance tables to understand how their local school or college has fared this year. For example, 99 of the top 100 institutions in the A level attainment rankings are either in the independent sector or have a selective admissions policy. For financial reasons, or because of their prior educational attainment, these institutions are out of the reach of most young people.
“These headline results mask the performance of institutions in the non-selective state sector - where the vast majority of young people are actually educated. Sixth Form Colleges are by some distance the most successful institutions in this category - 66% of students in the top 10 non-selective providers (and 41% of students in the top 100) studied at a Sixth Form College.
“It is also important to scrutinise the - largely unreported - progress measures in the performance tables. These are vital ‘distance travelled’ indicators that report the progress of (for example) A level students based on their GCSE performance. The performance tables show that students in Sixth Form Colleges make more progress than students educated elsewhere in the state sector.”
10 December 2015
Commenting on Ofqual’s statistical release on enquiries about results for GCSE and A level: summer 2015 exam series, Deepa Jethwa, Policy Officer at the Sixth Form Colleges' Association said:
Last year, SFCA raised concerns about the quality of exam marking with both Ofqual and awarding bodies. Despite taking steps to address the issue, it is clear that the situation has worsened. Ofqual report that 1.13% of total qualification grades have changed this year. When looking at A levels, a total of 199,450 enquiries were made, and of those, a total of 28,500 grades were changed, compared to 23,200 last year. It is not acceptable for students to work hard for two years only to receive the wrong grades. This can seriously affect their progression to higher education and employment. Furthermore, the loss of confidence in the exam marking system poses a serious threat to the credibility of the newly reformed A level qualifications in future years.
01 December 2015
Commenting on the publication of the Ofsted Annual Report 2014/15 James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“This year’s report acknowledges that more Sixth Form Colleges are judged to be good or outstanding than any sector. Attainment at A level remains strong and the report shows that Sixth Form Colleges lead the way in securing good GCSE grades in English and mathematics for learners who did not achieve these at Key Stage 4. All of this has been achieved against a background of funding reductions and curriculum reform. Sixth Form College staff and leaders have done exceptionally well in helping to deliver such outstanding results at such a challenging time.”
25 November 2015
Commenting on today’s Spending Review James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“The Chancellor has delivered better than expected news for Sixth Form Colleges today. First, he has listened to our representations and promised to maintain the base rate of funding for 16-19 year old students for the rest of this Parliament. As our recent funding impact survey showed, a further round of cuts would have had a devastating impact on the life chances of sixth form students. We look forward to seeing the finer detail of this announcement and await confirmation that there will not be reductions in other areas of 16-19 education such as funding for disadvantaged students or 18 year olds.
“And we are delighted that Sixth Form Colleges will have the opportunity to become academies - this will help to move the sector from the margins of education policy to the mainstream. Many Sixth Form Colleges are interested in academy status, as it will allow them to foster closer relationships with schools. It will also ensure that they no longer have to pay VAT - we have long campaigned for an end to this learning tax that leaves the average Sixth Form College with £317,964 less to spend on the front line education of students each year.”
10 November 2015
Report from the Labour party on college funding
Commenting on today’s report from the Labour party on college funding, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“This is a deeply worrying report and confirms our fears that some Sixth Form Colleges could be wiped from the educational map after the spending review. Funding for 16-19 year olds - already significantly lower than for younger students - has been cut three times since 2011 and it seems certain that further reductions will be made next year. As 16-19 specialists, Sixth Form Colleges are disproportionately affected by cuts to this budget. Our funding impact survey published in August showed that 72% of Sixth Form Colleges have already been forced to drop courses and 76% have reduced or removed extra-curricular activities.
“The evidence is clear – Sixth Form Colleges outperform school and academy sixth forms while educating more disadvantaged students and receiving less funding. And yet the government is simultaneously committed to reducing the number of Sixth Form Colleges through the area review process while increasing the number of school and academy sixth forms to meet its manifesto commitments. Rather than punishing Sixth Form Colleges through a combination of funding reductions and area reviews, the government should use the spending review to protect the sector that is delivering the best result for students at the lowest cost to the public purse.”
13 August 2015
A level results day 2015
Commenting on today’s A level results, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“Many congratulations to all students who received their A level results today. The early signs are that Sixth Form Colleges will celebrate another year of outstanding success. Sixth Form College staff and leaders should also be congratulated for helping their students to achieve such remarkable results against a backdrop of curriculum change and funding cuts.
“As our funding impact survey indicated this week, ongoing cuts to 16-19 funding are threatening the life chances of students and the ability of Sixth Form Colleges to deliver the sort of high quality education young people need. To ensure the sector can continue to act as engines of social mobility and deliver outstanding exam results, the Government should maintain sixth form funding at current levels while an urgent review of education funding is undertaken”.
11 August 2015
SFCA has published its annual funding impact survey today. Commenting on the report, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Exectuve of the Sixth Form Colleges' Association said:
“This report highlights the damage to students caused by the three funding cuts imposed on Sixth Form Colleges since 2011. The sector cannot survive on starvation rations, and without more investment, Sixth Form Colleges will be unable to provide young people with the high quality education they need to progress to higher education and employment.
“The Government should conduct an urgent review of funding across all stages of education and end the funding inequalities that exist between Sixth Form Colleges and school/academy sixth forms – particularly the absence of a VAT refund scheme that, according to our report, left the average Sixth Form College with £317,964 less to spend on the front line education of students last year.”
Click here to read the full report.
20 July 2015
Responding to a paper issued this morning by the Government which proposes major reforms to post-16 education and the introduction of area based reviews, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
A genuine process of area based reviews would be extremely welcome, as it would scrutinise the performance and viability of all 16-19 providers – including school and academy sixth forms. The process outlined this morning is fundamentally flawed as it only focuses on FE and Sixth Form Colleges. It feels very much like ministers do not want to address underperformance in schools and academies, and – ironically – intervention is being focused on providers that are supposed to have the most autonomy in the system. On average, school and academy sixth forms deliver worse outcomes than Sixth Form Colleges at a higher cost to the public purse. But many limp on with uneconomic class sizes and a narrow curriculum leaving students poorly served. In our view, ministers should have the courage to tackle underperformance and inefficiency wherever it exists.
13 May 2015
SFCA respond to re-appointment of Nick Boles as Minister of State for Skills
Responding to the re-appointment of Nick Boles as Minister of State for Skills, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
SFCA welcomes the reappointment of Nick Boles as Minister of State for Skills. As the minister in the Department for Education with responsibility for Sixth Form Colleges, we look forward to continuing our constructive working relationship with him. The minister acknowledged last year that our sector had absorbed huge funding cuts and we will urge Mr Boles to fight our corner in this year’s spending review. Although the 16-19 budget is outside the funding ringfence, cutting it further will seriously damage the life chance of thousands of students.
8 May 2015
SFCA react to the Conservative party's victory in the 2015 General Election
Responding to today’s result, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“We look forward to working with the new Government and the confirmation of ministerial appointments. But our sector faces some significant challenges that need to be urgently addressed.
“We are particularly concerned about the threat of future funding cuts, as the Conservatives were the only major party that did not pledge to protect 16-to-19 funding in real terms.
“The evidence is clear: Sixth Form College funding has already been cut to the bone and we will not be able to absorb more cuts without it having an adverse effect on students. We will set out evidence of the damage that cuts have already had on the sector and argue in the strongest possible terms against any further cuts ahead of the upcoming spending review."
30 March 2015
SFCA criticise Government for issuing response to funding campaign on day Parliament is dissolved
SFCA has criticised the Government for delaying its response to the learning tax campaign until the day that Parliament was dissolved. An e-petition calling on the Government to introduce a VAT refund scheme for Sixth Form Colleges had received over 10,000 signatures (the point at which the government is required to respond) by 9th January 2015. A letter supporting this move signed by Graham Stuart, Chair of the Education Select Committee and 75 other MPs was sent to Secretary of State Nicky Morgan on 9th February. It is thought that a response was sent to Mr Stuart on Friday.
But the Government only posted its response to the e-petition this morning. In the response, the Government said it had “explored the possibility of introducing a VAT refund scheme for sixth form colleges” and “the arguments for removing the sector’s liability for VAT are understood”. However, the Department for Education “cannot afford to cover the costs of doing so in the financial years 2015-2016.”
In addition to widespread support from the public and MPs, the drop the learning tax campaign has been supported by high profile former Sixth Form College students including actor Colin Firth and presenter Dermot O’Leary. According to the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA) that is leading the campaign, the imposition of VAT on Sixth Form Colleges is a tax on learning that redirects funding away from the front line education of students.
Responding to today’s announcement, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“Issuing this response on the morning that Parliament was dissolved was a cynical move. Almost half of the 93 Sixth Form Colleges in England are in marginal constituencies and this announcement was obviously timed to minimise the damage to candidates in those seats. The Government has ignored the pleas of parents, students and teachers that have signed the petition and the cross-party group of MPs that have lent their support to the campaign. We hope that an incoming government will move quickly to address this longstanding anomaly to ensure young people receive the same level of investment in their education, irrespective of where they choose to study”.
12 February 2015
Responding to today’s announcement from Ed Miliband that a future Labour government would protect the education budget in real terms – including further education, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
This is an extremely welcome announcement that could throw a lifeline to the Sixth Form College sector. The Labour party has responded to the deep concerns of students, teachers and parents that sixth form funding has been cut to the bone over the past five years. Without real terms protection, some Sixth Form Colleges will close and others will only be able to provide an impoverished educational experience to students. This is an important step towards addressing the chronic underfunding of sixth form education. As young people are now required to participate in education and training until the age of 18, the current policy of ending funding protection at the age of 16 is absurd. As the Prime Minister confirmed last week that a future Conservative government would continue this policy, there is now a stark choice between the two main parties on sixth form education.
2 February 2015
Protection of the education budget
Responding to today’s announcement from the Prime Minister that a future Conservative government would limit the protection of the education budget to pupils aged 5-16, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
This is a disgraceful decision. Sixth Form Colleges have been subjected to savage and disproportionate funding cuts since 2010. This announcement is a clear signal that we should expect more of the same from a future Conservative administration. This will disproportionately affect Sixth Form Colleges as they do not have the ability to cross subsidise from the more generous funding available for pre-16 students. Protecting school students by punishing college students (who are more likely to have lower levels of prior attainment and come from more disadvantaged backgrounds) is an act of educational and economic vandalism. The Government needs to wake up to the crisis in sixth form funding, which risks damaging the prospects of young people at what is a vital time in their education.
4 November 2014
Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) 2015 to 2016 - academies can now borrow money to fund capital projects
Responding to the policy change that allows academies and Sixth Form Colleges to borrow money to fund capital projects at non-commercial rates, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
"We have been making the case to Government for some time that the ability to borrow money has become an increasingly theoretical freedom for many Sixth Form Colleges – many colleges are unable or unwilling to take out new loans as the ongoing reduction in funding hinders their ability to make repayments. We met with David Laws shortly before this guidance was released and urged him to ensure Sixth Form Colleges are treated on the same terms as academies when accessing capital funds. So we are pleased that the Government has responded to our concerns and allowed Sixth Form Colleges to access loans at Public Works Loan Board rates of interest, the same that local authorities can access to invest in their schools.
"However, the Government’s last line of defence on the VAT argument has been to point to the borrowing powers of Sixth Form Colleges and suggest that this offsets the range of funding inequalities between SFCs and academies. As recently as February, our former minister Matthew Hancock MP said in parliament: Sixth Form Colleges are funded on the same per pupil formula as every other school. They do pay VAT, and in return for that they have much more flexibility in their own borrowing. But now the one freedom that was supposed to be our great financial advantage is also available to academies – and at non-commercial rates. The Government’s position on the VAT treatment of Sixth Form Colleges has always been shaky, but this latest development means it is now completely indefensible."
10 September 2014
Ofsted’s report - Transforming 16 to 19 education and training: the early implementation of 16-19 study programmes
Responding to the publication this morning of Ofsted’s report Transforming 16 to 19 education and training: the early implementation of 16-19 study programmes, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“It is very early days in the life of study programmes, but this report provides some useful initial insights and recommendations that will aid their development. The study programme model, particularly the flexibility it provides, has been welcomed by Sixth Form Colleges. However, the accompanying reduction in funding (more than 15% for some institutions) has been less welcome – greater flexibility has come at a very high price for Sixth Form Colleges. The government has got the model right but the funding wrong for 16-19 education.
“Sixth Form Colleges will build on the findings in this report. At the same time, Ofsted and the Department for Education should ensure that their inspection and audit regimes do not penalise institutions that are adopting the flexible and innovative approaches to delivery that the report encourages. There must also be an acceptance that it is colleges and schools that are best placed to make decisions about the content of individual study programmes. The suggestion in the report that more A level providers should replace one qualification with work experience is an interesting one, but those sort of decisions are best made between teachers and students – the decision to continue with a well-established and successful curriculum model should not be interpreted as an unwillingness to innovate”.
18 August 2014
14 August 2014
Commenting on today’s A level results, James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association said:
“Many congratulations to all students who received their A level results today. The early signs are that Sixth Form Colleges will celebrate another year of outstanding exam results. This is remarkable achievement given the significant changes to the examination system and the reduction in funding that is available to educate sixth form students.
“Nationally, the increase in entries to Maths and Science courses is welcome, as is the continued popularity of the Extended Project – a qualification that Sixth Form Colleges lead the way in delivering. But while today is a day of celebration for our students, Sixth Form College leaders have grave concerns about the future impact of the Government’s A level reform programme. There is particular concern that the plan to de-couple AS levels from A levels will inhibit their ability to support young people to progress to higher education or employment.
“In its current form, the AS qualification provides valuable breadth and gives students time to refine their areas of specialisation. As a result, the risk of drop out is greatly reduced. It also acts as an important stepping stone for students, particularly less confident learners, and helps universities when making decisions on admissions.
“If the Government is serious about improving the life chances of young people, it should reverse its decision to decouple AS levels from A levels and make a commitment not to impose a fourth funding cut in four years on Sixth Form Colleges.”
22 July 2014
Today Nick Boles MP made an announcement on the funding for large programmes of study for 16 to 19 year olds.
In response James Kewin, SFCA Deputy Chief Executive has said...
"The long delay in making this announcement has been very politically convenient for Ministers – for well over a year they have been able to suggest that good news for Sixth Form Colleges was just around the corner in the form of a large programme premium. But the plans announced today will only benefit a very small number of students in a very small number of Sixth Form Colleges, and not until 2016. Describing this as a funding ‘pledge’ is misleading, there is no new money here, this is a redistribution of existing resources - the only winners will be highly selective sixth form providers, particularly grammar schools. To fund this initiative, the Government is robbing Peter to pay Paul - it would have been more equitable to increase the basic rate of funding to help students of all abilities get the support they need to progress to higher education or employment. The Government should focus on addressing the fundamental under-investment in sixth form education, rather than introducing a measure that will only benefit a small number of high flying students."
21 July 2014
In response to Peter Mucklow's letter, sent to all Principals and Chairs of Sixth Form Colleges. SFCA Chief Executive David Igoe said:
Sixth Form Colleges come under a different jurisdiction to General FE Colleges with respect to intervention and we have in Peter Mucklow our own commissioner. His letter last Friday highlights the high quality of SFCs with nearly 90% judged by Ofsted to be good or better. This does not make us immune from problems and the commissioner had to intervene in one case following an Ofsted inspection. School, Academy and College performance is a matter for the public record and we all have to live with that. It's important to remember though that providers are funded differently and the recent London Economics report highlights just how large that funding gap, in terms of available resource per student, really is. It's a pity Peter Mucklow's letter wasn't able to acknowledge that salient fact."
10 July 2014
Today Ofsted have published the outcomes of the consultation on proposals to introduce separate graded judgements for school sixth forms, as a result of the consultation Ofsted will introduce separate graded judgements for school sixth forms from September 2014 .
Commenting on the decision, James Kewin, SFCA Deputy Chief Executive said...
"We are very pleased that Ofsted will be introducing a separate graded judgement for school sixth forms from September. This is something that SFCA has campaigned vigorously for, and we believe it will help learners to make informed judgements about where to study. It will be very interesting to see the details of the proposal – we believe the judgement for the sixth form should act as a limiting grade for the whole institution, and that inspection practice (particularly the use of data) should be consistent across all sixth form providers."