Wednesday 18 January 2012

Internal funding gaps

I’m always a little wary of any newspaper stories where the lead-in uses the words ‘we can reveal’.  It’s usually followed not by any great revelation of something secret, but by a story on a widely-available report.  So it was with this story in Monday’s Western Mail.
It shows that the differences in amounts per pupil passed to different schools in Wales – even within the same authority – are bigger than the headline gap between the Welsh average and the English average.  But this is no revelation; it’s not even a surprise.
It’s a point that I made on this blog some months ago; the obsession with comparing overall Welsh averages with overall English averages in order to score a political point has been blinding people to the much greater internal differences, although at that point I didn’t have figures to the same level of detail.  It also underlines another point that I’ve made a number of times on this subject – there is no obvious causal link between amount spent per pupil and the level of educational success achieved by a school.
Looking at the detail of the figures, they do suggest that smaller schools spend more per head than larger schools; some might see that as economies of scale, others as an urban/rural split in the cost of providing education reasonably close to home.  They certainly do not suggest that simply increasing the amount of money passed to schools across the board is going to solve any of the problems facing the education system in Wales.
That’s not to say that schools couldn’t do more with more money; merely that it doesn’t necessarily follow that they would.  If we want to sort out education in Wales, we need to do a lot more analysis than simply dividing budgets by numbers of pupils and highlighting the ‘gaps’ which result.  That is just a diversion from getting to grips with the real problems.

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