Huge funding gap for state and private sixth formers needs to be addressed

The Association of Colleges has found that there is a massive gap between funding in state sixth forms and colleges compared to private institutions, and urges the government to close this gap, if they want more state pupils in the best universities.

It costs on average £14,475 per year to fund a private school sixth form pupil (exclusive of boarding). The average state spending on state-educated sixth formers is £4,500.

This difference is echoed when comparing figures about pupils from state and private schools progressing to the top third of universities. In 2011, 24% of state school pupils went to the most selective universities compared with 64% of private school pupils – and private schools only educate 7-8% of sixth formers.

Another interesting finding was that sixth form funding in the state sector is almost £1,000 less per year than for pupils aged 11-15. In private schools, parents pay more to put their children through sixth form.

The assistant chief executive of the AoC, Julian Gravatt, said: “They [the Department for Education] don’t seem to make these [funding] decisions on the basis of any analysis of the needs of a particular age group. If we’re serious about closing the gap between private schools and state schools in accessing selective universities, then the DfE will need to do something about the widening gap in sixth form funding levels between the two sectors.”

This is just another example of the challenges that face the UK in bridging the gap between the wealthiest students and their peers, affecting not only children on Free School Meals, but anyone who cannot afford (or chooses not to) send their children to independent school.

Helen Robinson