3 September 2007

Spending without result

Cross-posted from Burning our Money, the ever-watchful Wat Tyler reminds us once again, with the help of hard data, what an incredible sink for money the state education system has become. It demonstrates the folly of supposing that just because more money is poured into "education" (or "health", "childcare", etc.) the extra spending necessarily makes things better. It can just as easily make things worse. The logic "more money = better service" is as crude as "more years = more learnt", and neither correlation is likely to be particularly high in a system in which there is no real consumer power.

Special plugholes for public spending surges

Education, education, education.

And as everyone should have understood, that was going to cost money, money, money.

Since Labour came to power, spending on Britain's state schools has more than doubled. Last year they spent £44.7bn, up from £22.2bn in 1996-97 (see here and prior PESAs). Even adjusting for general inflation, the increase is over 60%, a massive uplift.

Fair enough you say. That's what the voters wanted.

But spending money is easy. What we haven't had is the results.

Let's just recap the latest revelations:
  • Pre-primary skills among five-year olds are unchanged despite a £21bn programme to improve them (see this blog)
  • 3Rs skills among seven-year olds are stalled, with eg 20% failing to reach the minimum expected standard in writing (see here)
  • 3Rs skills among eleven-year olds are stalled, with 60% failing to reach the minimum expected standard in reading, writing, and maths (see this blog and this)
  • Core attainment among fourteen-year olds is also stalled, with nearly 40% failing to reach the minimum expected standard in English, maths, and science (see here)
  • At GCSE 54% still fail to gain 5 A-C grades including both English and Maths (see excellent Chris Woodhead article here)
  • A Level results continue to soar, but we now know they are two whole grades easier than twenty years ago (see this blog)

Once again- as if we needed any further proof- the dirigiste techniques of Stalinist central planning and tractor output targets have simply failed to deliver.

And today, we have an update on a key reason behind the failure: the escalating crisis in head teacher recruitment. Suitably qualified candidates are simply not putting themselves forward, because they don't fancy being the stressed-out disempowered middle management sandwich meat stuck between the commissars and the parents. And who can blame them?

We've blogged this many times (eg see here), but until now the main problem has been in secondary schools. It's now spread to primaries, with more than one-third of schools being unable to appoint after advertising the post.

As we've noted before, this problem simply doesn't exist in the independent sector. There, head teachers are much more firmly in charge of their schools. And they answer directly to the paying customers rather than indirectly through those ignorant self-serving spineless commissars.

The bottom line?

We're now spending 60% more in real terms on our schools, but our children's education is no better than it was. Indeed, given that schools now routinely teach to the test, it may very well be worse (see this blog).

Wat Tyler

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