16-19 education saw the largest fall in education spending over the last Parliament

1 October 2015
What was claimed

The Conservatives have overseen the deepest cuts to post-16 education ever.

Our verdict

Last Parliament saw spending on 16-19 education fall by 4% a year (after inflation). This contrasts with an increase of 8% a year on average between 1998 and 2009, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (we don't have comparable data before then).

"The Tories have totally failed to address the big challenges facing education […] the deepest, most severe cuts to post-16 education that we'll have ever seen."

Lucy Powell, Shadow Education Secretary, 30 September 2015

Funding for the 16-19 education budget in England fell by nearly 14% over the last Parliament after adjusting for inflation, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). That's 4% a year. 

This contrasts with an increase of almost 8% a year on average between 1998 and 2009. The IFS hasn't compared prior to this because it said there is no consistent set of figures available.

The Conservatives have pledged to protect school funding over this Parliament, but not specified what will happen to funding for post-16 education. The IFS says that if cuts continue at the same rate, the 16-19 education budget will have fallen by 28% between 2010/11 and 2019/20 (after inflation).

Real-terms cut in funding to colleges and sixth forms

16-19 education here includes further education, sixth forms, apprenticeships and bursary support (the 16-19 bursary and its predecessor, Education Maintenance Allowance). That's the main area of spending typically described as 'post-16 education'. We haven't looked at funding for adult education here.

The 14% cut to 16-19 education over the last Parliament compares with a 39% rise in the early years budget, and a 3% rise in the schools budget (for pupils aged 5-16). Expenditure on apprenticeships, within the 16-19 budget, fell by 3% in real terms.

The cuts were partly driven by the lower budget of the new 16-19 bursary scheme compared with the old EMA, the IFS has said. But it also commented that funding allocated to colleges and sixth forms had also been cut by 10% in real terms. Meanwhile the number of 16 to 18 year olds in education and training grew by about 1.5% between 2010 and 2014 (at the same time as the increase in the compulsory education or training age to 18).

The way in which 16-education is funded also changed in 2013/14, when funding became awarded 'per student' rather than 'per qualification'. Previously, the per qualification funding meant that a young person undertaking a large number of small qualifications could attract high levels of funding for the provider.

We don't know what will happen to post-16 funding in this government

As the Conservatives have only pledged to protect education spending on schools, we don't know what will happen to post-16 funding. The government has said decisions on expenditure beyond 2015/16 will be made as part of the spending plans being published in November.

The government has also announced a review of post-16 education and training providers, which seeks to address "the significant financial pressures on institutions".

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