A SIXTH form leader has warned that funding cuts to education threaten to bring the country to its knees as teenagers are at risk of missing out on the skills and support they need.

Priestley College principal Matthew Grant said the budget for 16 to 18 year olds’ education has been cut over the past eight years as more money is put into funding universities, leaving colleges to cut courses, staff and mental health support.

And many teenagers get half the amount of teaching time that students in other countries get. In Britain sixth formers spend about 15 hours a week in classes compared to about 30 hours a week elsewhere in Europe.

Mr Grant said that Priestley has worked hard to secure its future and has not cut languages or arts courses and AS levels like some sixth forms have been forced to do.

But he added: “We are not struggling financially but we are struggling to provide some services. It has hit our ability to support students with mental health difficulties. It would be helpful if we could put more resources into counselling at the college because these youngsters can be on long waiting lists.

“We believe many courses that have been cut by other sixth forms are important to students and end up becoming their favourite classes.

“Cuts are forcing young people to take decisions about the rest of their lives before they might be ready. It impacts on their progress and long-term life chances.”

In Warrington colleges get £4,000 per student each year but government increases to national insurance, the apprenticeship levy and pay rises have pushed up costs.

And Mr Grant added that young people who decide to go back to college attract even less funding, at £3,600 per student each year once they have turned 18.

He warned that, following Brexit, it is important to invest in the next generation so they have the skills, languages and support they need to succeed.

He said: "This will reduce the capacity of this country to have the skills it needs. Because of Brexit we will need more people who can speak foreign languages and more skilled workers, not less.

"The government invests so much in higher education but people aren't going to be able to get there.”