Balls says Government will plug funding gap for sixth-form places

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The Independent Online

The government will throw a lifeline to thousands of teenagers threatened with the loss of their sixth-form place this autumn.

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, will plug the £200m funding gap which would leave up to 50,000 pupils without their school or college places being funded.

The threatened cuts have already prompted the National Union of Teachers to warn of strike action if any teachers lose their jobs as a result of the cuts.

However, the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, has privately reassured some teachers' leaders that more money will be found by next month.

The cuts were spelt out in an email to all schools by the Learning and Skills Council – the quango responsible for funding education for those aged 16 and over.

Mr Balls has indicated that officials had underestimated the number of teenagers wanting to stay in education after their 16th birthday. He has told teachers' leaders the budgets given to schools will not be the end of the story and they can expect new ones at the end of April following the Budget.

The cuts threatened three key government initiatives: Raising the education leaving age to 18, persuading 50 per cent of students to go on to higher education, and encouraging more young people to study the Government's new diplomas, which are designed to bridge the gap between academic and vocational education.

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