Saturday, June 15, 2024
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New government plans could allow Palmer’s College to become an academy

SIXTH-form colleges such as Palmer’s College in Grays will be allowed to convert to academy status or join a multi-academy trust, George Osborne has announced in a surprise move.

While an academy conversion process is already in place, the Department for Education has previously shied away from supporting sixth-form colleges interested in making the transition. It has been suggested that one of the main reasons is the fact that, while England’s 93 sixth-form colleges have to pay VAT, schools and academies have their costs refunded by the government.

The VAT bill, dubbed a “learning tax” by the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA), costs an average-sized college £317,000 per year.

This move to abolish non-refundable VAT payments for sixth-form colleges has long been campaigned for by FE personnel and politicians alike. Earlier this year, a cross-party group of 76 MPs urged education secretary Nicky Morgan to address the “VAT anomaly” and support the introduction of a VAT refund scheme for sixth-form colleges in England.

The principal of Palmer’s College, Mark Vinall said:

"We feel that we should not have been paying VAT anyway and so we appreciate the government accepting this point.

"I do not believe we should have to convert to become an academy to receive it. Becoming an academy is a matter for all sixth form college corporations to consider in all its implications, not just VAT, and they will do so in consultation with the Sixth Form Colleges Association.

"The post 16 colleges sector is also subject to a national review and this will no doubt be one of the many considerations as we all consider the best way forward for our colleges."

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