School and college sixth forms will be protected from further cuts, the government has been announced.
As part of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement it was revealed that the budget for 16 to 19-year-olds’ education will now be protected for the sector in cash terms.
The country’s 93 sixth-form colleges will become academies – meaning they will avoid VAT payments, which currently average £317,000 a year per college.
Osborne’s U-turn on sixth-form funding came after warnings that cuts could mean the closure of up to four in 10 colleges across the country.
“The chancellor has delivered better than expected news for sixth-form colleges today,” said James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth-Form Colleges Association.
“A further round of cuts would have had a devastating effect on the life chances of sixth-form colleges.
“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.”
The pledge to maintain funding in cash terms will also help bail out further education colleges - who had feared their budgets would be devastated by cuts of at least 25%.
However, not everyone was convinced of the helpfulness of the move, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust – a charity campaigning for equal access to education – being one of them.
“While the cuts may not be as much as some feared, the chancellor’s real terms cut to further education and sixth-form studies still pose a threat to the prime minister’s laudable social mobility goals," he said.
“Those cuts could harm university access by cutting opportunities for young people to study key A-level subjects and reduce second chance college opportunities.”
The savings will come from axing education support grants - given to local education authorities services like school improvements - helping schools in difficulty turn themselves around.
There is a chance that - as more schools become academies - they will turn to their sponsors or trusts for funding, which will make some people working in education uncomfortable.