A good ed­u­ca­tion is not just about money

The Daily Telegraph - - Letters to the editor - ES­TAB­LISHED 1855

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.

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