Saturday, 9 February 2008

Average spending per State pupil is £8,300 a year!

We are all familiar with this Nulab mantra that they will"raise spending on state school pupils to the same level as that spent on those in private schools", see for example this article on the BBC website from November 2006.

This article falls for the lie* that spending per State pupil is about £5,000, as have so many others, but for sake of argument, let us assume that the figure for the average spend per pupil in private sector is indeed £8,000. This article is a bit more up-to-date and says that average private school fees are £8,000 in the North of England and £11,000 in the South East.

Now, where does this £5,000 figure come from? Well, the Department for Education and Skills' Report for 2007 says, in Table 8.5, that the average spend is £5,290 (including revenue and capital). Hmm. Let's dig a little deeper. Table 8.3 says that total spending on education taking DfES and local authorities together is expected to be £50,424 million in 2007-08 (excluding higher education). This does not include £10,517 million for Teachers' pensions**, which is buried away in Appendix A. Add the two together and call it £61,353 million (England only!).

Table 3.7 says that there are 7,385,000 State school pupils. Divide spending by pupils and we establish that average spending per State school pupil is a princely £8,300 a year!

Furthermore, is it fair to look at average fees in the private sector? Is it not more important to look at the lower end of the scale? Surely, the cheapest private schools must be better than State schools, or nobody would send their children there, would they? If we knock 20% of the average private school fees to guesstimate how much the cheapest private schools cost, then it seems that spending per State pupil already matches fees in the best value private schools.

So, job done, Goblin King! Bravo! You have done what you promised and have also proved beyond any doubt that increasing spending in the State sector, even to private school levels is a waste of money!

Can I have education vouchers for my children now ... please?

* Rather amazingly, schools Minister Jim Knight repeated the same lie in the House of Commons in response to a question from Frank Field, one of his own backbenchers, back in February 2007.

** If you want to argue that Teachers' Pensions in payment are sunk costs, then we could include the actuarial cost of the entitlements that are accruing to today's teaching cohort instead, which is probably double the amount of pensions in payment, which would bring the true average spend to £9,700.

PS, I have posted on this topic before, it's just that I've only just got round to reading the DfES report and crunching the numbers properly.


dearieme said...

Well said, Mr W. Can you estimate the size of the further correction required from the fact that proportionately more private school pupils stay on for sixth form?

Mark Wadsworth said...

D, that would require hours of research and interpolation and is probably not that relevant, I think.

Other adjustments could be made to reflect the fact that primary education costs less than secondary (whether State or private), and that a lower percentage of children go to private primaries than to private secondaries etc, again, it's all pretty marginal.

dearieme said...

"true average spend to £9,700": I was just hoping that one further tweak would get it above £10k. Then you could get the Daily Mail to carry the story.

Mark Wadsworth said...

D, that is one heck of a challenge, I'll have a try when I've time - the Report is wilfully difficult to understand, none of the tables reconcile with the others etc.

John B said...

The £50bn figure is definitely overcounting - you're attributing all non-HE costs to "school", whereas the figure that actually matches up with the pupil numbers in table 3.7 is the £38bn figure in table 8.1.

Pensions are an interesting additional element and definitely one that it's misleading of the government to exclude - assuming that schools account for the same % of pensions that they do of total spending, the actual figure will be around £6.5bn, for a total of £44.5bn or £6,100 per head. So the gap's narrower than it first looks, but still definitely there.

[also, I can think of plenty of reasons a parent would want to send a kid to a private school that provided an objectively worse education than the state alternative - predominantly snobbery-related...]

Mark Wadsworth said...

On reflection, yes, I overcooked it a bit, but your £6.5 bn is still understated; the true actuarial cost of Teachers' Pensions is about twice the published figure. Which gives us £51 bn, or about £7,000 per head.

Can we agree on £7,000, for sake of argument? Which is a lot more than private primary schools and a bit less than private secondary schools.