Two college principals from Cornwall have spoken out against Government funding cuts for 18-year-olds in full-time education.
Amarjit Basi and David Walrond, the principals of Cornwall College and Truro and Penwith College, took the rare step of issuing a joint statement after it emerged that funding for students in England who are already 18 will be cut by 17.5%.
They warned the cuts, which apply from September next year, would hit some of the most vulnerable students and risked undermining the “academic and vocational skills that are crucial to both the Cornish and the national economy”.
“Two thirds of those in 16-19 education and training are in colleges, not school sixth forms,” they said.
“Both locally and nationally, it is colleges in particular who work to improve the qualifications, the skills, and therefore the life chances of these students, including enhancing their prospects to progress to higher education.
“A host of economic, social and international education performance indicators show the need to ensure higher levels of achievement and qualification for young people.
“Supporting these students with adequate funding, therefore, is not just about investing in them as individuals; it is about investing in the academic and vocational skills that are crucial to both the Cornish and the national economy.
“As Martin Doel corrof the Association of Colleges has rightly pointed out, these are the very students who need extra help, not less."
Schools and colleges were informed of the cuts in a letter from the Education Funding Agency. It said savings had to be found from the 16-to-19 education budget “to contribute to reducing the overall public sector budget deficit”.
But the plan has met with an angry response with college leaders warning that students staying in post-16 education for a third year were some of the most vulnerable.
It could also lead to some three-year courses being squeezed into two.
James Kewin, of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “We understand that there is a need to address the hole in the public finances, but this should not be achieved by reducing the funding available to some of the most vulnerable young people in our education system.”
A DfE spokesman said: “This government has ended the historic unfair funding between schools and colleges for post-16 students by putting both on the same funding rate.
“Schools will no longer receive more money for teaching fewer students than colleges. Furthermore, we have put in place protection until 2016 to make sure schools and colleges can plan ahead.
“Changes to funding for 18-year-olds will affect less than a fifth of students and amounts to an average reduction of 2% across all institutions.
“Students with learning difficulties or disabilities will be excluded from this restriction, and those students without a grade C in English and maths will continue to attract disadvantage funding at the full rate.”