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Sixth Form Education: Finance

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what recent progress has been made in closing the funding gap between sixth form colleges and school sixth forms; and if he will make a statement; (249883)

(2) what estimate he has made of the cost of closing the funding gap between sixth form colleges and school sixth forms; and if he will make a statement.

By the end of 2008-09 academic year I fully expect that we will have reduced the funding gap between schools and colleges to around 5.6 per cent. This is in line with our commitment made in 2004-05 to reduce the gap by 8 percentage points. We will continue to close the gap further as funding allows but our priority is to maximise participation in learning by young people.

The LSC have the detailed information required to calculate what the cost would be to close the funding gap between 16-18 pupils in school sixth forms and sixth form colleges/FE colleges. Mark Haysom, the LSC's Chief Executive, has written to the hon. Member setting out that in the current year the estimated cost of closing the gap would have been more than £135m. A copy of his letter will be placed in the Libraries.

Letter from Mark Hayson, dated 23 February 2009:

Further to your question to the SOS for Children, Schools and Families and the reply by Jim Knight, Minister for Schools, I am supplying the additional information referred to in his answer.

In his response Mr Knight mentioned that the gap in funding currently stands at 5.6%. Our funding system which came into effect for 2008/09 uses standard funding rates per standard learner number (SLN, a measure of the number of learners and the breadth of their learning). The base rates per SLN in 2008/09 are £2,945 for school sixth forms and £2,860 for FE college learners (including Sixth Form Colleges).

As this is a new system there are no equivalent figures for 2007/08 but one may use the difference between the two base rates (£85) as a proxy for the difference in funding in 2007/08, as the rates have both increased by the 'minimum funding guarantee' of 2.1%. We estimate that the number of SLNs in FE in 2007/08 was 1,002,322. Therefore the cost of bringing up the base funding rate per learner in all colleges would be approximately £85 million. In addition, schools receive a further £50 million towards pension payments for teachers. There are also a number of other factors influencing the funding differences between school sixth forms and FE, which are explored in more detail in a report undertaken for the LSC by KPMG, published on 6 May 2008. This is available on the LSC's website at:

We are continuing to work with DCSF and schools and colleges to review this funding difference and to look at ways of equalising funding.

I hope you find this information useful.