Call for axe on 'learning tax'
Celebrities are among thousands who have signed a petition calling for a "learning tax" on sixth-form colleges to be axed.
It urges the Government to end an anomaly which means these colleges, unlike schools and academies, do not have their VAT costs refunded.
This discrepancy leaves the average college with £335,000 less to spend on educating students each year, according to the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), which is leading the call.
Dropping this tax would go some way to plugging the funding gap left by cuts imposed since 2010, the Association said, adding that a survey it conducted last year found that 68% of sixth-form colleges have axed courses due to funding cuts, while 71% have reduced extra-curricular activities such as drama, music and sport.
An e-petition set up by the association as part of its campaign has already attracted more than 11,000 signatures.
TV presenter Dermot O'Leary, who studied at Colchester Sixth Form College, said his college experience was "extremely positive".
"The teachers took a real interest in my education and encouraged me to get involved in a range of extra-curricular activities. I'm supporting the drop the learning tax campaign because I want future sixth-form college students to benefit from the sort of education that has served me so well over the years."
SFCA deputy chief executive James Kewin said: "The imposition of the learning tax on sixth-form colleges is a clear injustice. The Government should drop the learning tax to ensure sixth-form colleges can continue to provide students with the high quality education they need to succeed and prosper."