Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department for Education and Employment (PAC 00-01/126)

Question 93: A comparison of funding for sixth forms provision in schools compared with sixth form colleges

  Unit funding

  The starting point in trying to compare school and FE funding is the per capita data the Department has published on the level of funding allocated for 16-18 students by (i) the Further Education Funding Council and (ii) LEAs.

  For FE, table 4.7 of the Department Report for 2001 shows that the rate of funding per full-time equivalent (FTE) student in the FE sector is planned to be £3,280. On the basis of earlier advice from the FEFC we would also take this as our estimate of the funding cost of a 16-18 FE student, again on an FTE basis.

  For schools, figures for LEAs were published in the Department's school sixth form funding consultation document in December 2000. This showed that the LEA mean funding cost per pupil in school sixth forms for the year 2000-01 was £3,250.

  Put side by side, these figures could suggest that the DFE and LEA average unit funding figures are broadly equal. However, I would counsel caution on this. It is difficult to compare school and FE figures because their definitions are not equivalent. In particular, some costs borne by FE colleges are met by LEAs in the case of schools. Also, schools can cross-subsidise between 11-16 and 16 plus provision—a freedom they will retain under the ISC arrangements from next year.

  A further complication comes in the use of averages. The FE average are fairly meaningful because the FEFC ran a system based on national rates, as the Learning and Skills Council is doing. However on the schools side, the LEA mean figure of £3,250 masks a very wide range from £2,600 to £4,100. Schools at the lower end of this range are likely to be funded well below comparable levels at, say, a sixth form FE college with the same types of students undertaking the same types of programme. Such schools can, however, look forward to levelling up to LSC national rates as resources allow.


  The only other figures the Department has published which bear on sector comparisons came as part of our analysis of the funding allocated to the different types of institution listed below, over two years, in order to help a student successfully achieve three A levels. The latest year for which data are available is 1996-97. The figures take account of the costs associated with those students who drop-out or fail to achieve the full three A-levels. They are subject to the same caveats as above in terms of the difficulty of comparing like with like:
SectorFunding (£) Index (i) = 100
(i)   LEA maintained schools7,380 100
(ii)   General FE colleges6,250 85
(iii)  Sixth form colleges5,910 80

  Source: The public funding costs of education and training for 16-19 year-olds in England 1996-97 (DfEE December 1998).


  Finally, because the Learning and Skills Council will in future fund 16-18 provision in schools as well as FE, it is important to note that Ministers have guaranteed that:

    (i)  a school sixth form cannot lose financially compared to its 2000-01 funding unless its numbers fall (in which case there will be a per capita reduction); and

    (ii)  There will be no downwads convergence by the school sector. Ministers aspire to see FE converge upwards to school levels and have said publicly that this will take an unpredictable amount of time becasue it will depend on the availability of public funds.

Question 120: Drop-out rates for higher education (HE) students

  The most authoritative source of information on HE drop-out rates are the Performance Indicators in Higher Education in the UK, published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The latest available figures relate to students of all ages who started full-time first-degree course in UK HE Institutions in 1997-98. These show that 17 per cent of all such students are expected to leave HE without obtaining a HE qualification, compared to 18 per cent the previous year. These figures have not been broken down into separate young and mature (aged over 21) entrant rates, although it is acknowledged that within all subject areas "non-continuation" rates for mature entrants are higher than for young entrants.

  The performance indicators do compare young and mature non-continuation rates after the first year at HE institutions. The figures show that for UK HE institutions as a whole a higher proportion of mature entrants than young entrants do not continue in HE after their first year. The non-continuation rate after the first year was 15 per cent for mature entrants in 1997-98 compared to 8 per cent for young entrants. However, a significant proportion of the leavers are expected to return to HE after a "year out"—around 16 per cent in the case of the mature first year leavers. There is no specific information in the performance indicators about students who leave and/or return at later stages of their full-time first degree courses.

Department for Education and Employment

April 2001

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