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School Funding Formulae

Volume 559: debated on Monday 4 March 2013

4. What steps he is taking to ensure that the funding formula for school sixth forms and sixth-form colleges is fair and equitable. (145455)

In 2010 we committed to ending the historical disparity in post-16 funding so that by 2015 schools and colleges will be funded at the same level as one another for the first time, on a per-pupil basis. Transitional protection will apply for four years from 2011 to give institutions time to adjust.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer and to the Secretary of State for his correspondence. In Solihull and elsewhere, differences in funding for sixth-form colleges and state schools are putting sixth-form colleges under great competitive pressure. Will the Minister assure Solihull sixth-form college, and all sixth-form colleges, that he will introduce remedies as quickly as possible?

I am a strong supporter of sixth-form colleges, which do excellent work, including Solihull sixth-form college. I congratulate the newly formed all-party parliamentary group on sixth-form colleges. I regularly meet the ministerial working group on post-16 funding to discuss the implementation of the fair per-pupil funding system, and I will bear my hon. Friend’s comments in mind.

I thank the Minister for attending the all-party group’s reception last week. I think that he recognised at the meeting that sixth-form colleges, in particular, face a challenging funding situation because their learners are funded significantly less than those pre-16 or in higher education. Will he commit to addressing that issue as soon as possible?

Of course funding is tight, and it is important that we get it to the right place. The starting point is ensuring that, as far as possible, students doing the same sorts of courses are funded the same across different institutions and that, just as we do before the age of 16, someone in full-time education is funded by broadly the same amount as anyone else in full-time education.

As a vice-chairman of the newly formed all-party group, and as the Member who represents the finest sixth-form college in the country, Farnborough sixth-form college, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows only too well, I welcome the Government’s commitment to ending the disparity. However, I have just been on the phone to the principal of the college, who tells me that even now it is looking at being between 9% and 15% less well funded than its counterparts in mainstream education. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend expedited his proposed changes.

The changes will be brought in by 2015. We have put in place transitional arrangements to ensure that institutions have time to adjust. Especially in sixth-form colleges such as Farnborough, which has an excellent track record—it is truly inspirational—it is important that we move to per-pupil funding in a considered way.

Sixteen to 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds studying at further education sixth-form colleges do not receive free meals at lunchtime, whereas their counterparts in school sixth forms do. Is not that another injustice that needs to be addressed?

Schools do not receive any extra funding for provision of that duty, so when looking at that question we need to be extremely careful not to add new duties without extra funding to go with it.