Dear secretary of state,
Congratulations on your reappointment. You have the advantage of being more familiar with your ministerial in-tray than most. This is only a very short addition to it.
Among the urgent issues for your consideration are some relating to the education of 16-19 year olds in England. Public funding for this age group is by far the lowest in the system. Despite the raising of the participation age, this funding remains outside the government’s spending ‘ring fence’ and has been disproportionately affected by spending reductions. This trend seems set to continue unless drastic action is taken.
On average, full time 16 and 17 year olds are funded at £4,646 per year and 18 year olds at £3,830 compared to £5,620 for 11-16 year olds and £8,500 for 19-21 year olds (including FE loans). This means that 16-17 year olds attract 17% less funding than their 11-16 year old counterparts. For 18 year olds the gap is even wider at 32%.
Sixth form fees in independent schools average over £13,000 and are typically above their 11-16 fees reflecting additional costs required to offer the post-16 curriculum.
It is clear that publicly funded sixth form providers, whether colleges or schools, are already finding it difficult to offer a broad and balanced curriculum to this age group and with further reductions the gap between aspirations and resources will be impossible to bridge.
In addition, this phase of education is now characterised by intense competition between providers, this does not necessarily create successful or cost-effective local systems or serve the interests of young people well.
All of this must be of grave concern to you as you will be aware of how important good full time sixth form education is in preparing young people for progression to university and employment and building on their achievements pre-16.
It is therefore vital that the following urgent questions are addressed:
- How do we fund the education of 16-19 year olds adequately and equitably over the next few years to ensure they can benefit from the kind of full time programmes which prepare them well for higher education and employment?
- How do we promote successful and cost-effective models of collaboration and partnership between 16-19 providers to ensure that the educational needs of all young people across England can be met?
We look forward to a constructive dialogue on these matters.