The feeling towards the initially welcome £1.6m uplift in funding for 16-19 education took a downturn when, just a month before many schools and colleges closed for the Summer, it was announced that the funding increase would be contingent on providing students with an additional 40 hours of education. If they do not increase the hours, they will lose funding in future years, so how can these hours be provided where there is not the capacity to staff them?
The 8% rise in per student funding must have been a welcome relief to the chronically-underfunded 16-19 education sector when it was initially announced in the Chancellor’s budget last November. However, schools and colleges are now funding both rising running and staffing costs and a 7% increase in student hours from the below-inflation budget increase. Moreover, with staff already under increased pressure from understaffing (AoC, 2022), and University and College Union members voting in favour of strike action in the face of another real-terms pay cut (IFS, 2022), how can schools and colleges possibly staff these increased hours?
16-19 education providers will have funding clawed back through decreases in funding for future students if they do not increase ‘planned hours’ by an additional 40 hours for full-time (Band 5 and T-level) students, or a proportional increase for part-time students, even where they already offer over the 540-hour minimum (DfE, 2022a)
To make sure that funding is not clawed back through lowering per-pupil funding bands in future academic years, Sixth Forms and Colleges must:
ensure the 40 additional hours are used “flexibly, broadly in line with study programme guidance, to best meet the needs of students”
evidence the extra hours “are timetabled and exist”
evidence they have “incurred a recognisable educational cost” in providing the additional hours
“support areas such as mental health, wellbeing or study skills” for students where these are barriers to accessing learning
“prioritise maths…where there is an identified student need” [explored in more detail below]
The most obvious use for additional hours is for increased teaching time. However, with persistently unfilled teaching vacancies in STEM and Healthcare subjects, including maths (AoC, 2022), many colleges will struggle to expand staffing capacity to cover all of these additional hours. Thankfully, the guidance does not require additional hours to be supervised, or even take place on site. Broadly, any activity which counts towards ‘planned hours’ is eligible. However, “the majority of additional hours should be used flexibly to meet the needs of students on planned teacher/tutor led qualification activity” (DfE, 2022b). Defined as “planned learning hours”, qualification hours need to be timetabled and organised by staff but they could, for example, be led by external tutors. However, there is no requirement for students to be supervised for the planned hours to be eligible.
The guidance uses exam preparation time as an example of non-supervised “qualification hours” (DfE, 2022a). The guidance specifies this activity meets the criteria as long as students are completing “structured revision or practice papers that are marked by a member of staff…”. However, time allocated for homework or independent study, or unstructured study leave, cannot be counted.
A complicating, and arguably contradictory, factor is the requirement to evidence a “recognisable educational cost” for hours to be eligible, where “the cost incurred corresponds to the amount of funding being recorded”. Relevant examples to consider when deciding whether a provision meets the criteria are staffing costs (teachers and tutors), premises costs, and equipment and material costs. In the exam preparation example, whilst there are likely no premises costs, unless students are required to work in a designated area on site, there has been a cost of teacher preparation and/or marking, and perhaps equipment and material cost of systems they are using for that purpose.
The additional hours should prioritise maths where there is an “identified need”. The guidance specifically references support for students without GCSE Grade 4 who will be working towards re-sitting GCSE, Functional Skills, or on appropriate numeracy as a condition of their funding. Notably, these additional hours are separate from the 16-19 tuition fund, where students may already be receiving additional support with maths. However, these students are not the only ones for whom maths should be prioritised when considering provision of the additional hours.
Students who are “behind on maths” may be studying for any qualification, not only A-level or core maths qualifications. Apprenticeships, traineeships and T-levels students will have varying degrees of their courses requiring maths, and all would benefit from reviewing relevant mathematical skills before looking at these in context.
Across the curriculum, building mathematical skills can prepare students to be more successful in their Level 2 and 3 qualifications, at university and into their future careers.
Business, Economics and Science qualifications, for example, all require mathematics. Teachers of these subjects, who may not be confident in teaching maths skills, can focus on subject-specific teaching rather than finding their students aren’t equipped with the maths skills to learn subject content. Regardless of whether students are taking a maths qualification, securing maths skills before they are needed will enable students to be more successful in their subjects.
Complete Maths’ Intelligent Tutoring System, TUTOR, distils the very best of maths teaching and learning theory to deliver stage-appropriate tuition from developmental-stage expert teachers by diagnosing students’ level of mathematical security and personalising a journey for them through the whole of maths. From early counting through to advanced calculus, and at a cost of less than £1/week, every student in 16-19 education can access maths tuition to support them towards the next stage of their journey:
TUTOR can support all students with the mathematical understanding they need to be successful in their courses and leave compulsory education mathematically literate.
Rebekah is a former teacher and KS3/5 Curriculum Leader studying MA Education, Policy and Society alongside her work as an Education Adviser with Complete Maths. This involves supporting school, and school group, leaders improve pupils' security and confidence in mathematics both through using Complete Maths' online platforms, and with CPD.