Schools minister Nick Gibb has admitted that sixth form funding is stretched, in a parliamentary questions session this week.

Schools week reports that Gibb said funding was ‘tight’ with reference to funding given to schools for 16-19 year olds, compared with that for younger pupils and pupils in higher education.

The Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) is calling for a fund review for school sixth forms and colleges. Currently, schools sixth forms and colleges receive an average of 20 percent less per pupil than schools, and 47 percent less than universities.

In an unusual departure from the government line on funding, Gibb told the Commons session that he “absolutely recognised” that funding is stretched for sixth forms. However, he defended a decision not to ring-fence post-16 funding, saying:

“In recent years, we have had to make some post-16 savings while working hard to sustain funding levels for schools, bearing in mind the fact that success in school pre-16 is the best predictor of outcomes in post-16 education. I recognise that there is more to do to continue improving our post-16 education system.”

Post-16 funding has not been ring-fenced from cuts as has schools funding. Pupils aged 16 and 17 are funded at £4,000 a year, while 18-year-olds get £3,300.

Although extra money is made available for disadvantaged pupils and those who take additional A-levels, SFCA figures show that the average funding per pupil in sixth forms is £4,583, 20 per cent less than the average rate for 11 to 16-year-olds.

Nic Dakin, Labour MP and a former sixth-form college principal, questioned Gibb on whether it was logical that a 16 to 18-year-old was cheaper to educate than a 15-year-old or university student.

The SFCA says cuts to entitlement funding  six years ago– which had paid for tutorials, enrichment activities and additional courses – resulted in school sixth forms and colleges losing about 10 per cent of their funding.