The government is launching a review into how the current system of funding for FE meets the costs of “high-quality” provision, Anne Milton has revealed.
The skills minister announced the plans in the House of Commons today during educations questions, after she was asked what the Department for Education had made of “recent trends” in education funding for 16- to 19-year-olds.
Alongside the post-18 review of education funding, she said “we are also looking at the efficiency and resilience of the FE sector”.
“We need to make sure that existing and forecast funding and regulatory structures meet the costs of high-quality, first-class provision,” she continued.
“I’ve asked my officials to assess how far the current funding system meets the costs of high-quality provision in the further education sector and will update the House shortly.”
The Sixth-Form Colleges Association has claimed this is a “significant win” for its ‘Support Our Sixth-Formers’ campaign, which was backed by FE Week.
One of its main objectives has been to secure a review of sixth-form funding to ensure it is linked to the “realistic costs of delivering a rounded, high-quality curriculum”.
James Kewin, the association’s deputy chief executive, described the announcement as an “important step on the road to ensuring that 16-to-19 providers are fairly and sufficiently funded”.
“We look forward to working with ministers and officials on the detail of this project and have already shared some of our existing evidence base with colleagues in the DfE,” he added.
A DfE spokesperson said: “We are looking at resilience, funding, regulation and the institutional structures within the sector to make sure that we can deliver high quality provision.
“This is not an external review, but it will draw on the views of providers across the sector.”
The Support Our Sixth-Formers campaign was dealt a blow in January when the DfE ruled out an increase in funding for 16- to 18-year-olds next year.
In a letter to providers, the department said the national base rates of £4,000 per full-time student aged 16 to 17 and £3,300 for 18-year-olds were to be “maintained for academic year 2018 to 2019 as are the part time funding rates”.
The Support our Sixth-Formers campaign, also backed by the Association of Colleges, has been calling for a £200 “SOS uplift” in 16-to-18 per-pupil funding rates.
The SFCA claimed in November that sixth-form colleges were at “tipping point” after their overall Ofsted ratings fell for a third year running, largely as a result of funding pressures.
And Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, said during her speech at the launch of the Ofsted annual report in December that the “sector will continue to struggle” without an increase in the base rate funding for this age group.
This is the sixth year that the funding rate for 16- to 18-year-olds has remained unchanged – meaning that providers have faced a real-terms funding cut over that time.