A good education is not just about money
There is an assumption that the highest quality education is linked to the most generous levels of funding. The assumption is false. Recent research comparing school standards around the world has shown how the relationship between the amount of money spent per pupil and achievement is tenuous. South Korea, for instance, is one of the highestperforming OECD countries on the basis of so-called Pisa tests, yet spends well below the average per-student expenditure. It is how the money is spent that matters. Moreover, educational achievement is as much a function of culture, family bonds and aspiration, which is one reason why immigrant children do so much better in exams in the UK.
Yet it is asserted that unless money is shared out on an equal basis and increased year-by-year the education of our children will inevitably suffer. The Government has been under pressure for months now over changes to school funding that have left some worse off than before or at a comparative financial disadvantage to others.
After resisting these demands Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, yesterday told MPS that the Government was allocating an additional £1.3 billion over the next two years to maintain per-pupil funding in real terms. The extra cash will come from saving £420 million from the department’s capital budget and £200million from the free school programme, which is one reform that has helped push up standards in recent years.
This is as much a political as it is an educational decision. Pressure on the Tory backbenches for change was irresistible once the Government had lost its Commons majority and characteristically the Labour Party said the extra money was not enough. They will always demand more. But how do we ensure that schools getting more money will use it wisely? The system for allocating funds has been too opaque for too long; and while there has been a welcome shake-up in the schools system that has improved standards, there are elements that remain unreformed, such as the absence of any real performance-led or regionally weighted pay structures for teachers which have been blocked by union opposition.
A revised funding formula was inevitable given the political pressures. But it needs to be accompanied by rigorous checks to ensure schools are making the best use of the money they receive.