Friday, October 22, 2010

Deciphering the Spending Review for sixth form colleges

The Spending Review is somewhat challenging to interpret in some areas. Yesterday’s Financial Times editiorial accused George Osborne of “obfuscation” and said that “what should have been a sober presentation was cheapened by political spin”. I am not going judge on that - partly because I am more concerned and somewhat perplexed by what the SR means for sixth form colleges.

There was no mention of 16-18 funding in the SR speech. But it was in the SR report. The Department for Education (DFE) press release states:

As we move towards full participation by 2015 we will secure reduction in individual unit costs

What does that mean exactly? It clearly implies increased numbers will mean lower funding rates. But will those rates be lower in real terms or – more worryingly – in cash terms?

How big is the overall 16-18 pie? I guess it may shrink by something like the 12% real reduction for non-schools DFE spend. It may be a little less as DFE and quango administration costs are being reduced by a third and Educational Maintenance Allowances are being replaced by a scheme costing 90% less.

If the pie is shrinking in real terms by perhaps one-tenth and then it is spread over a larger number of learners, are funding rates likely to fall by about one-fifth in real terms?

There is also the issue of who gets the 16-18 pie. Will general FE colleges get more as their offer may be more attractive and appropriate to many of those currently not in education and training? These colleges will certainly be very keen for funding given the severe cuts in the FE budget.

It certainly seems like many sixth form colleges will be facing a hard times, if not as bleak as general FE colleges. It will be reminiscent – but perhaps much worse – than the efficiency gains required of colleges during the 1990s.

No comments: