Press release

Gibb: simpler, fairer funding system to improve post-16 education

Schools Minister Nick Gibb sets out proposals to overhaul education for pupils of 16 and over.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

English and maths for all students until they achieve good grades

Schools Minister Nick Gibb today set out proposals to overhaul post-16 education and give students the best chance to go on to university or skilled employment.

Consultations launched today by the Department for Education and the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) recommend that:

  • the complex funding system should be simplified and made fairer so it works in favour of students. Schools and colleges will be funded on a per student basis rather than per qualification
  • All students aged 16 to 19 without a grade C or better in GCSE English and maths should continue to study those subjects. This year’s annual skills survey from the CBI found that more than two-fifths of employers were not satisfied with the basic literacy of school and college leavers.

More than a third were unhappy with levels of numeracy.

The reforms follow recommendations made by Professor Alison Wolf in her review of vocational education. She said more than 300,000 16- to 19-year-olds were on courses which did not benefit them.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

The current funding system is plagued by perverse incentives that have diverted some students towards weaker qualifications.

Every student should be taking courses which give them the best chance of succeeding in life.

The current system incentivises schools and colleges to load too many students with low-quality, small or easy qualifications, often in random combinations, that employers do not value.

These reforms will ensure young people are given the information they need to take the courses that benefit them, and that all courses available broaden rather than narrow their options.

It is time the system was fairer and simpler - and worked in favour of young people.

He added:

Too many young people are dropping English and maths before they have secured a good grounding. These vital subjects are critical to the economy and as a country we need all our young people to be fluent and comfortable in these basic skills.


The proposed 16 to 19 funding formula would see schools and colleges paid on a per student basis. Currently further education colleges, sixth-form colleges and school sixth forms are paid by the number of qualifications a student takes. Professor Wolf said this meant some schools or colleges maximised income by “piling up” young people with low-quality qualifications which did not offer progression.

The existing ‘success payments’ system would also be amended to discourage providers from placing students on courses that are easy to pass but which do not lead to skilled employment or further education. The funding for disadvantaged students would be adapted so that it aligns with the principles of the pre-16 pupil premium.

 Programme of study

The consultation sets out the characteristics of high-quality study programmes for 16- to 19-year-old students.

It says programmes:

  • should not be wholly occupational and should include at least 1 qualification of substantial size which offers progression either into university or into skilled employment
  • should consist of tutorial time and high-quality work experience where appropriate
  • should include compulsory English and maths for students who do not have a good GCSE (grade C or better) in these subjects. Around one-fifth of young people get a ‘near miss’ (a D grade) each year in each subject - they will be given extra help to retake their GCSE at the first opportunity. Others will be given more intensive help over a longer period (and will possibly take other qualifications as stepping stones to the GCSE). Some, for whom GCSE success is further off, will take other qualifications. The remainder will continue studying the subjects even if they do not gain qualifications

The chairman of the YPLA, Les Walton, said:

Our stakeholders have been calling for these reforms for a number of years and I am delighted that through our work with the department we are able to present these proposals to the wider sector. The system can be fairer, more simple and transparent. It will require all partners to work differently and it is vitally important that we do this to ensure the best futures for all our young people.

The Department for Education is also seeking views on the provision of high-quality work experience for those aged 16 to 19, and on the proposed removal of the duty on schools to provide work-related learning for 14- to 16-year-olds. Professor Wolf said in her report that “the blanket requirement to give all KS4 pupils ‘work experience’… has served its time”. She said it was expensive and too often did not involve going to a workplace. Schools providing high-quality experience would still be able to provide it.

Professor Wolf said:

The government’s proposals recognise that maths and English are the most important vocational as well as the most important academic skills of all, and critical to young people’s success in life. The proposed funding reforms should enable innovation and responsiveness to local needs and demand and I look forward to watching new high-quality programmes for 16- to 19-year-olds develop in the years ahead.

A revised funding formula would support the policy objectives of:

  • raising the age for compulsory participation in education
  • eliminating the attainment gap between young people from poorer and more affluent backgrounds
  • removing any undue incentives that funding may exert over the curriculum

The consultations close on January 4.

 Notes to editors

  1. The independent Wolf review into vocational education was published in March this year.

  2. The government response to Wolf was published in May this year.

  3. Professor Alison Wolf is the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College London, and specialises in the relationship between education and the labour market. She has been a specialist adviser to the House of Commons select committee on education and skills; is an academic member of the Council of King’s College London; writes widely for the national press and is a presenter for Analysis on BBC Radio 4.

  4. The Young People’s Learning Agency was established by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 and launched in April 2010. It is sponsored by the Department for Education and exists to support the delivery of training and education to all 16- to 19-year-olds in England, and oversees funding of academies.

  5. In England, more than 1.6 million young people are in some form of education, the highest ever number, with 91.6% of 16- and 17-year-olds participating in education or work-based education and training at the end of 2010. Participation of 16-year-olds alone stands at 96.1%. In 2010, 4 out of 5 young people aged 19 were qualified to at least level 2 and more than half of all young people were qualified to level 3.

  6. At the end of 2010, 141,800 16- to 18-year-olds were not in education, employment or training (NEET). This is 7.3% of all 16- to 18-year-olds.

  7. The pre-16 pupil premium has been introduced to provide schools with extra funding to spend on interventions that can support the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The Government remains committed to full participation in education and training for 16- and 17-year-olds, to raising the participation age to 17 in 2013 and to 18 in 2015. The question for post-16 funding is how it can be most effectively used to better support young people’s prospects, which are too often determined by home background and circumstance.

  8. In 2010 only 55% of young people managed a C or better in GCSE English and maths. Of those who did not achieve this level by age 16, only 24% in English and 17% in maths went on to reach this level by age 19.

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Published 6 October 2011