The funding gap between school sixth forms and their poorer college counterparts will be halved under new funding plans for 16-19 study.
The Further Education Funding Council intends to reshuffle Pounds 20 million of its budget to increase cash available to sixth-form colleges so they can provide the additional teaching required under the broader A-level curriculum, which comes into effect next year. Ministers have told school sixth forms, which are better funded than colleges, they will get no additional funding for
the new curriculum.
Under the plans, the funding gap between schools and colleges will shrink from about Pounds 500 a student a year to about Pounds 250.
Colleges will get an average of 13 per cent more per student to help meet the costs of the new curriculum, in which students will be expected to study five AS levels in the first year of sixth form, as well as key skills exams.
Next year, schools will be funded at about Pounds 3,000 per sixth-form student, against Pounds 2,800 for colleges. The figure for colleges is up from Pounds 2,300.
Announcing the plans last week, David Melville, FEFC chief executive, said:
"This will go a long way to creating a level playing field between studying advanced level courses in the FE sector and school sixth forms."
But college leaders are worried. John Brennan, director of further education development for the Association of Colleges, said: "My model shows that to deliver the new curriculum, colleges will need something over Pounds 3,000. So there is still a gap."
College leaders fear that the plan does not fully fund the A-level package envisaged by ministers, who expect a typical student will sit five AS levels in year one of sixth form and focus on three full A levels in the second - the equivalent of four full A levels.