Priority 1: Raise the rate


Priority 1: Raise the rate

  • According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, sixth form college funding was cut by around 17% between 2013 and 2019, with real terms funding in 2024 set to be below the level it was in 2010.

  • The needs of students have become increasingly complex since then (e.g. the sharp rise in demand for mental health support), more young people are living in poverty, the cost of delivering sixth form education has risen significantly, and the government has greatly increased the bureaucratic burden on colleges. 

  • This has had a negative impact on the education and experience of students, the workload and well-being of staff, and the ability of government to achieve its ambitions for the economy and social mobility. 

  • Research from London Economics indicates that sixth form colleges will require an additional £710 per student in 2025 to keep pace with inflation and provide young people with the level of student support (e.g. mental health and welfare services) and non-qualification time (e.g. employability training, tutorial activities) required to support their studies.

  • The sixth form funding rate is currently £4,753 per student, per year. This should be increased by at least £710 to £5,463 for every 16, 17 and 18 year old studying on a full time basis, and then raised annually in line with inflation. Raising the rate is the only way to ensure that funding is made available in a way that enables colleges to tailor resources to meet the individual needs of students.  

  • The recent trend for small increases in funding linked to particular subjects or qualifications has had no impact on the vast majority of sixth form students. Eye-catching, but short-term (and often bid-based) funding initiatives are also no substitute for a sufficient level of core funding. 

  • Although young people are required to participate in education or training until the age of 18, the IFS reports that funding for students in sixth form colleges is 22% lower than funding for students in secondary schools.

  • This significant resource gap is further widened by the policy of ending pupil premium funding at the age of 16, particularly as the IFS reports that the overall level of deprivation funding is lower for 16 to 19 education that it is for pre-16 education. 

  • While there is a need to review the sixth form curriculum and associated teaching time (see Priority 6) the immediate priority should be to raise the rate by at least £710 to support the delivery of the current number of teaching hours. Research from London Economics indicates that the rate would have to be raised by £1,760 to provide the additional 2.5 hours of teaching time per week required to deliver the proposed Advanced British Standard qualification.

  • There is also a pressing need to reform the 16 to 19 funding system and associated audit regime. Both are characterised by a high level of uncertainty and bureaucracy, and a low level of trust and autonomy. 

  • The system for funding students with high needs is in particular need of reform. Securing funding from local authorities for young people that meet the high needs threshold is often extremely difficult, and a growing number of young people require significant additional support but do not meet the current threshold. As a result, the most vulnerable students do not always receive the support they need, or do not receive it in a timely manner.  

Detailed priorities  

  • Certainty: introduce three-year funding agreements for sixth form colleges (with flexibility for under and over delivery) and make the teachers’ pension employer contribution grant a permanent feature of the funding system 

  • Autonomy: dramatically reduce the bureaucratic burden on sixth form colleges caused by funding regulations and the associated audit regime 

  • Equality: guarantee core funding for 16 to 19 year olds does not fall below the level of core funding for 11 to 16 year olds and equalise funding between 16 to 19 institutions (e.g. extend the VAT refund scheme and Local Government Pension Scheme guarantee to sixth form colleges)    

  • Fairness: extend pupil premium funding to 16 to 19 year olds using the funding rates in place for pre-16 students and end the practice of reducing funding by more than 17% for students who require an extra year to complete their studies      

  • High needs: allocate all funding for students with high needs directly to sixth form colleges with increases in student numbers fully funded ‘in-year’ 

To read our full manifesto, with details of our five other priorities, click here.

Forward to Priority 2

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