Schools avoid budget cuts for A-level drop-outs

Schools avoid budget cuts for A-level drop-outs

Schools teaching new decoupled A-levels will avoid being hit by budget cuts if their student drops out before completing the two-year course after the government tweaked funding rules.

Under current funding rules, if a student fails to finish their course – regardless of whether they achieve the qualification – the funding is halved via a ‘retention factor’.

That means that schools and colleges faced losing funding if a student dropped out at the end of lower sixth before completing a new two-year linear A-level course.

However students who complete an AS-level, but also leave before going into their second year, are counted as “retained” – meaning the school or college keeps its full funding.

Now the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has confirmed it will amend rules to so that “we do not penalise institutions as the new qualifications are introduced”.

All students recorded on a two-year academic or vocational programme will now be treated as “retained” if they complete their first year (classed as still in learning on June 30).

The change will apply to 2018-19 funding allocations. But funding for students who drop out before June 30 will still be docked, the department stated.

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the SFCA, welcomed the “sensible” move. “Without this change, colleges and schools would have been hit by a retention ‘stealth cut’ on top of the existing funding pressures they are grappling with.

“This is the right decision by the ESFA and they should be commended for taking it.”

However the EFSA has said this arrangement is not permanent, and will review how retention is treated across all institutions, “particularly into students’ second year and we are investigating potential funding levers in this respect”.

“We are concerned about high drop-out rates between year 1 and year 2 for two-year programmes and want to ensure that students are getting good advice before choosing courses, and effective support during their programmes.”