Local MP Mike Thornton demanded a fair deal for local sixth-forms and joined a campaign to scrap the tax that leaves local sixth-form colleges out of pocket by hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
Mike joined a cross-party group of 75 MPs and has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, urging her to support the introduction of a VAT refund scheme for the 93 Sixth Form Colleges in England.
The MP also joined the Vice-Principal or Barton Peveril College, Nigel Groves, at a Parliamentary reception held this week to highlight the campaign and celebrate the achievements of the Sixth Form College sector in England.
At present, school and academy sixth forms have their VAT costs refunded by the Government, while sixth-form colleges do not. As a result, the average sixth-form college has to redirect £335,000 of its annual funding away from the front line education of students to pay VAT.
Barton Peveril Principal, Jonathan Prest said: “Mike Thornton always takes a keen interest in the community at Barton Peveril Sixth Form College and we are delighted to have his full support for this campaign. VAT costs Barton Peveril nearly £0.5 million per annum. That is a lot of money we could otherwise spend on the education of our students.”
Eastleigh MP, Mike Thornton said: “This anomaly puts unnecessary financial pressure on sixth-form colleges, like the excellent Barton Peveril in Eastleigh, threatening their success.”
“Students are entitled to receive the same level of funding for their education, irrespective of the type of institution at which they study. This unfair levy should be scrapped.”
The letter has been warmly welcomed by the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association that published a survey last year indicating that 68% of its members have dropped courses and 71% have reduced enrichment activities (such as drama, music and sport) because of funding pressures.
The Department for Education estimates that it would cost approximately £30 million per annum to refund the VAT costs of Sixth Form Colleges but the MPs write that a VAT rebate “would be both effective and affordable” and urge the Secretary of State to “give this idea serious consideration”.
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.”