Students in Year 11 who have missed out after six months of “neglect” need urgent financial support from the Government so they do not fall further behind, an education leader has warned.
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said he is “worried” that teenagers in Year 11 have not been a priority for many schools during closures amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
He told MPs that it is “indefensible” that 16-year-olds starting college in September have been left out of the Government’s £1 billion plan to help young people catch up with their education in the autumn.
Addressing a virtual Education Select Committee, Mr Hughes said: “We’ve asked for £200 million – which will be a pupil premium type upgrade for funding for those students who need it most.”
He added that it would allow disadvantaged students to get “the extra support in the autumn to catch up after six months of probably some neglect”.
The AoC leader also warned that colleges face a £2 billion loss of income next year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Hughes said: “We think there’s about £2 billion of college income at risk for the next academic year out of £7 billion.
“So that’s an enormous impact and this is on a sector that’s faced a decade of austerity and neglect … so it’s a very vulnerable sector.
“The Government must, must, must do something to support those colleges that are at risk.”
He added that solvency is an issue for some colleges where around 40% of their income is at risk.
The warning comes after the Government announced that schools will be given £1 billion to help students catch up, but pre-school children and teenagers in sixth forms and colleges will not benefit.
Mr Hughes told MPs: “We’re particularly worried about Year 11s because Year 11s are not the priority for lots of schools, and particularly the Year 11s who are going to go on to college, and particularly the numbers who don’t get a good grade in English and maths, because they struggle in the best of times.
“And we’re not in the best of times. They will have had six months without any support. So they absolutely need extra support in the autumn otherwise they’re going to be a long way behind.
“They won’t be able to achieve the qualifications they are going on so it’s indefensible that that group hasn’t been supported yet.”
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that schools in England will reopen in September with “full attendance”.
It comes after secondary schools and colleges in England began to offer some “face-to-face” support to students in Year 10 and Year 12 from last week.
But Mr Hughes said he believes it will be “very difficult” to open colleges fully in the autumn as social distancing will still be an issue.
“Public transport is going to be difficult, and lots of students post-16 travel a long way to get to college,” he added.