House of Commons Library

16-19 education funding in England since 2010

Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019

This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper provides a summary of how funding for 16-19 education in England has changed since 2010.

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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 16-19 education funding system since 2010, including the introduction of a new funding formula from 2013-14 that replaced the previous per-qualification funding model with a system of per-student funding. At the same time, the funding provided to the sector as a whole has been reduced.

The changes to the funding system mean that care should be taken when making comparisons about funding over time as it is not always the case that like is being compared with like (the main briefing explains these issues in more detail).

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 since 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).

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 5.7%. 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 – a fall of 7.2% in cash terms or 14.1% in real terms. Average per student funding fell by 3.3% in cash terms (10.4% in real terms) at sixth form colleges over the period and increased by 7.6% in cash terms (a real terms fall of 0.3%) at general FE colleges.

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 20.6% in real terms.

The expenditure on school sixth forms (both maintained schools and academies) fell by 13.0% in cash terms over the period, or 22.3% in real terms. Expenditure on 16-19 FE (which includes sixth form colleges and general FE colleges) fell by 10.0% in cash terms and 19.6% in real terms.

Estimates produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that, in 2018-19 prices:

  • Spending per full time equivalent 16-19 student in further education (e.g. sixth form colleges and general FE colleges) fell from £6,208 in 2010-11 to £5,698 in 2017-18. Expenditure per student in 1989-90 was estimated to be £5,170.
  • Spending per full time equivalent 16-19 student in school sixth forms declined from £6,311 in 2010-11 to £4,963 in 2017-18. Estimated per student expenditure in 2002-03 (the earliest year for which it was possible to produce estimates) was £5,625.


A number of issues have been raised concerning the funding of 16-19 education. These include:

  • The overall level of funding and the lower level of 16-19 per student funding compared to per student funding in secondary and higher education.
  • Underspends on the 16-19 education budget in 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17.
  • The absence of a VAT refund scheme for sixth form colleges (such a scheme exists for schools and academies).
  • The funding requirement that students who have not attained certain GCSE grades in maths and English must continue to study those subjects post-16.

Commons Briefing papers SN07019

Author: David Foster

Topics: Further education, Schools, Students

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