Solihull Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt has joined a 75-strong group of MPs urging the government to drop the ‘Learning Tax’ on sixth form colleges.
The campaign was backed by the Paul Ashdown, Principal of the Sixth Form College, Solihull, who said students at sixth form colleges should have the same opportunities as students elsewhere.
Under current rules, schools and academies with sixth forms claim back VAT but sixth form colleges cannot. On average this leaves sixth colleges £335,000 a year worse off.
A Sixth Form Colleges Association survey has found that over two thirds of sixth forms have dropped courses because of funding pressures.
The MPs teamed up to sign a cross-party letter to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, urging her to find the £30 million needed to refund VAT to sixth form colleges.
The Department for Education responded that it was ‘looking at’ ways to help sixth form colleges.
Mr Ashdown said, “We are very pleased that Lorely is able to support the campaign for fairer treatment on Sixth Form College on the VAT issue.
“Although the college is funded at the same levels as sixth forms in schools, the requirement that we pay VAT means that things like computers, energy and building refurbishments cost us 20% more than a school would have to pay, and this leaves us significantly less money to use supporting students and the curriculum.
“This puts particular pressure on specialist areas where there are fewer students but we are one of only a very few providers nationally or locally, such as with our outstanding languages offer including A-levels in Russian and Italian as well as French, German and Spanish. We really hope that the Minister can find a way to give us and our students the same opportunities as are provided for students in schools.”
Mrs Burt said, “Sixth form colleges like we have here in Solihull do a great job for their students
James Kewin, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association, said, “We are delighted that so many MPs from across the political divide are supporting our campaign to drop the learning tax.
“The money Sixth Form Colleges pay in VAT would be better spent on the front line education of young people.
“Students in sixth Form Colleges deserve the same investment in their education as their peers in school or academy sixth forms.”