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LSC attacked as sixth-form cuts loom

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Councils risk being blamed for teaching job cuts and cancelled sixth-form classes following the Learning & Skills Council’s (LSC) mishandling of further education funding, children’s services leaders have warned.

Association of Directors of Children’s Services president Kim Bromley-Derry and Local Government Association children and young people’s board chair Les Lawrence (Con) also allege that ministers have exempted academies from the cuts.

Up to 50,000 sixth-form places are understood to be in jeopardy as a result of a funding shortfall estimated at£200m. More 16 to 19-year-olds want to continue their education than funding allows for.

The crisis potentially jeopardises targets to encourage more youngsters to go into education, employment or training, and the LSC has drawn fire for failing to raise the issue until late last month.

In a letter to children’s secretary Ed Balls, Mr Bromley-Derry and Cllr Lawrence criticise the LSC’s “non-transparent” processes and call on the government to provide more funding to meet demand and avoid redundancies.

They say a decision to protect academies’ 16-19 budgets at the expense of sixth-form funding jeopardises the government’s role as a provider-neutral commissioner.

They add that councils could be left carrying the can for the crisis when they take over the LSC’s role next April.

“Local authorities will only be able to allocate the funding that is made available by the Young People’s Learning Agency, and ultimately the Department for Children, Schools & Families,” their letter said.

“Local government cannot,be put in a position where it is blamed for the consequences of an inadequate allocation.”

Hertfordshire County Council Liberal Democrat group leader Chris White said the council had a “significant” shortfall of more than£3.8m.

He said all the county’s secondary schools faced cuts running into tens of thousands of pounds, with some hitting£100,000.

An LSC spokeswoman confirmed that councils had been informed of changes in their draft and final funding allocations, but said she could not give an overall figure for the total reduction in spending.

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