Election 2024: six priorities for sixth form education

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Election 2024: six priorities for sixth form education

A manifesto for sixth form education

We urge all political parties to adopt the following six priorities for sixth form education ahead of the 2024 general election: 

1.  Raise the rate of funding for sixth form students by at least £710 per year 

2.  Protect student choice by retaining BTECs alongside A levels and T levels  

3.  Co-ordinate policy making and cut bureaucracy 

4.  Tackle the teacher recruitment and retention crisis 

5.  Create capital funds for expansion and maintenance  

6.  Conduct an evidence-based review of the sixth form curriculum  


The need for change 

Sixth form is a pivotal stage of education that transforms lives. There are currently 1.2 million 16 to 18 year olds in England studying on a full time basis. The large majority of these young people are studying an A level and/or applied general qualification such as a BTEC, often while resitting a GCSE in English and/or maths.    

In recent years, young people pursuing this sort of mainstream sixth form education have been overlooked by policymakers. Investment in pre-16 education has been a bigger political priority (for example, funding for students in sixth form colleges is now 22% lower than funding for students in secondary schools) and 16 to 18 policies have been narrowly focused on the tiny minority of students studying a technical qualification. 

With a general election on the horizon, we are urging every political party to make sixth form education a key priority. Leaders and staff in colleges and schools are finding it increasingly difficult to provide students with the education and support they need to fulfil their potential.  

A decade of underinvestment has led to a narrowing of the sixth form curriculum and a reduction in student support and extra-curricular activities. Cuts to NHS and local authority services during the same period mean that colleges and schools now provide a range of front-line support services to students for which they receive little or no additional funding. 

The Covid pandemic has led to a sharp increase in the number of students with additional needs and the ongoing cost of living crisis means that more students are living in poverty. 

Alongside delivering a lot more for a lot less, colleges and schools are also grappling with the disastrous plan to scrap BTEC qualifications, uncoordinated policy making, the inexorable rise of government bureaucracy, and the ongoing teacher recruitment and retention crisis.   

Capital funding is in short supply, despite the significant challenges many institutions have maintaining their buildings, and the need to create additional sixth form places in many parts of the country due to rising demographics. 

There is another way. In this manifesto, we set out six priorities that will help to ensure that all sixth form students in England receive the education and support they need to prosper. We urge all political parties to adopt all six priorities. 

You can download the full manifesto here, a summary here, or browse each priority one at a time by clicking this link.

More information

For more information about the SFCA manifesto, contact James Kewin, deputy chief executive, or Noni Csogor, senior research and policy manager.

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