Furious FE bosses wage funding gap war

May 10, 2002

Further education heads have become embroiled in a war of funding statistics with government officials.

The Association of Colleges has reacted angrily to briefing notes for MPs supplied by the Department for Education and Skills that attempt to undermine the AoC's claims of a £1,000 per student gap in funding between colleges and school sixth-forms.

The notes were issued the day before a national lobby of Parliament, organised two weeks ago by the AoC and further education staff and students' union leaders to call for an extra £2.5 billion to boost standards and widen participation.

The DFES told MPs that the government did "not accept or recognise" AoC figures that show a 20 per cent funding gap between colleges and school sixth-forms, amounting to £1,000 per student.

"There is a gap between FE and schools, but comparisons are far from straightforward," the DFES said.

The government is doing its own work to establish what the gap might be, but the Learning and Skills Council has calculated that it is probably about half of what the AoC claims, the notes say.

The AoC this week said it stood by its calculations, which are based on funding received by colleges and school sixth-forms for students taking three A levels in 2001-02. While colleges received an average £2,520 per student, school sixth-forms got £3,530, it claimed.

John Brennan, the AoC's director of further education development, said the picture was complicated because, since April, sixth-forms had come under the same LSC funding structure as colleges.

But sixth-forms still receive more funding per student than colleges, and about one-third get even more because of a guarantee that their funding would not drop in real terms when they transferred to LSC control.

The changes left sixth-forms £1,000 better off than colleges for students taking three A levels, and £700 per head richer across all programmes, Mr Brennan said.

The DFES told MPs it would be "pressing hard" for more money for further education in the spending review.

* Paul Mackney, general secretary of college lecturers' union Natfhe, has written to education secretary Estelle Morris calling for the government to pump some of £1.4 billion underspent by the DFES last year into the further education sector.

Natfhe is threatening a two-day college lecturers' strike over an "insulting" 1.5 per cent pay offer.

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