Sunday, May 01, 2005

Education spending up not down, forward not back

Labour have been keen to impress by showing that they can spend more of your taxes on education than the other parties, increasing funding per child to £5,500 by 2008. It is impossible for either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats to campaign against such an increase as the accepted wisdom is that increased spending is always good. Is it?

The Sunday Times has just published an independent report that concludes that education standards have barely improved despite the massive injection of funds under Labour. Why should we believe that increased funding will improve educational standards if previous increases have failed? Labour seem to apply the same logic as applies to international aid. If existing levels of aid have failed to alleviate poverty in the third world, it is only because not enough aid was given, no other factors can possibly apply.

The report disturbingly concludes "The gains have been modest but the efforts have been massive. Hundreds of millions of pounds spread across hundreds of initiatives have been invested. One has to ask if the money could have been better spent. It is our opinion that many changes that were put into place without sufficient evidence of their effectiveness before they were released into schools. To take one example, when the National Literacy Strategy was being created, an evaluation with comparison groups and experimental schools was in place but before the results could be collected the urgency to launch the initiative was such that the National Literacy Strategy was pressed on schools before the evaluation could be completed and before lessons could be learned. This was very unfortunate. There can be no substitute for very careful investigation of embryonic policies before they become policy."

Eseentially then, the politicians are like toddlers playing with a new toy featuring lots of buttons, they press them all but never really know what works and what doesn't, but at least they are seen to be pressing the buttons and that's the important thing.


lascivious said...

Hah - I posted on this very issue a few days ago:

The money has gone up, but most measures of performance haven't gone up. Where has all the money gone?

By the way - I get the Sunday Times and I don't remember that article. Is it because I get the Scottish version or did I just miss it?

lascivious said...

Ooops broken URL:

Snafu said...

Lascivious, why didn't you use the trackback?

lascivious said...

Because I wrote the article before yours and it didn't occur to me to add it retrospectively :)

Snafu said...


Bishop Hill said...

The Conservatives have one good policy which is the introduction of education vouchers. £5500 would buy me an education for my kids at the local private school.

What is breathtaking is that it has hardly been mentioned in the campaign. If I hear another BBC interviewer ask a Conservative frontbencher about immigration I think I'm going to scream.

Snafu said...


It is a good policy and should be promoted, however, it would be an excellent policy if you were allowed to top up the voucher to pay for a more expensive school. This is a half way house policy. As far as I can tell, it is a half way house policy as the Conservatives did not want to be seen subsidising the middle classes!!