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There are two systems of revenue funding for post-16 further education (FE) in England: the 16-19 funding system and the adult education funding system. This briefing provides information on the former. Information on the latter is provided in Library Briefing 7708, Adult further education funding in England since 2010.

Substantial reforms have been made to the funding of 16-19 education since 2010, including the introduction of a new funding formula from 2013-14. At the same time, the funding provided to the sector as a whole has been reduced.

Funding allocations: 2010-11 to 2012-13

Following the Comprehensive Spending Review 2010, a number of changes were made to 16-19 education funding from the 2011-12 academic year. These included (but were not limited to):

  • The replacement of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) with a new 16-19 Bursary Scheme. Expenditure on the bursary scheme is around a third of that previously spent on EMAs.
  • Entitlement funding (used to fund tutorial time and extra-curricular activities) was reduced, with some of the savings this created used to increase funding for disadvantaged students.

The total programme funding allocated to 16-19 providers (including funding for 19-24 year olds with learning difficulties and/or disabilities) fell from £6.24 billion in 2010-11 to £6.05 billion in 2012-13 – a reduction of 3% in cash terms or 6% in real terms.

The average programme funding allocation per student declined by 0.4% in cash terms between 2010-11 and 2012-13, from £4,633 to £4,614 – a fall of 4% in real terms. The average per student allocation made to school sixth forms declined by 4% in cash terms over the period, from £4,976 to £4,775. For other further education (FE) providers there was a 1% cash terms increase from £4,470 to £4,533.

Funding allocations from 2013-14

Further changes have been made to the 16-19 education funding system since the introduction of the new funding formula in 2013-14, including:

  • The national funding rate used in the funding formula for full-time 18-year-old learners was reduced from £4,000 to £3,300 from 2014-15 onwards.
  • From 2014-15, additional funding was provided to enable FE colleges and sixth form colleges to provide free meals to disadvantaged students. From 2016-17, bursary funding was reduced by £15 million to remove what the Government stated was double funding received by providers in receipt of the free meals funding.
  • A “large programme uplift” element was added to the funding formula from 2016‑17 onwards.
  • The Government has announced additional funding (comprising £500 million per year when fully implemented) to increase the number of programme hours for 16‑19 year olds on T levels to “over 900 hours a year on average.”
  • The Government has announced that from 2019-20 schools and colleges will receive an additional £600 for every extra pupil taking Maths or Further Maths A levels, or Core Maths (referred to as the Maths premium for 16-19 years olds).
  • At the Spending Round 2019, the Government committed an additional £400 million for 16-19 education in 2020‑21, which will include a 4.7% increase to the per-student base rate from £4,000 to £4,188. The Conservative Party’s manifesto for the 2019 general election confirmed these plans.

The total 16-19 programme and high needs funding allocated to providers fell from £6.09 billion in 2013-14 to £5.49 billion in 2018-19 – a reduction of 10% in cash terms and 17% in real terms.

The average total funding allocated per student (all funding included in allocations except Dance and Drama Awards and residential student support funding) increased from £4,856 in 2013-14 to £4,943 in 2018-19 – a fall in real terms of 6.2%. Of the three mainstream categories of 16‑19 provider, school sixth forms (including academy sixth forms) saw the biggest change in per student funding over the period.

Analysis published by the Education Policy Institute in May 2019 found that, between 2010-11 and 2018-19:

  • Funding per 16-19 student fell by 16% in real terms, from £5,900 to £4,960. This is twice the rate at which all school spending fell from 2009-10 to 2017-18.
  • Funding per 16-19 full-time equivalent student in the FE sector fell by 18% in real terms from £6,250 to £5,150. The fall was 26% in school sixth forms, from £6,280 to £4,680.
  • Funding for student support (including bursaries to learners aged 16 to 19) fell more than other funding streams, by 71% in real terms. Funding for programme delivery decreased by 30%, while disadvantage and high needs funding combined grew by 68%.

16-19 education expenditure since 2010-11

Based on the three main categories of expenditure contained in the funding body’s accounts, total expenditure on 16-19 education fell from £6.39 billion in 2010-11 to £5.68 billion in 2017-18, a reduction of 11.1% in cash terms and 21.0% in real terms.

The accounts for 2018-19 are presented in a different form, meaning that expenditure in 2018-19 cannot be compared with earlier years using the same headings.

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