DfE perfidy exposed: non-public spending boosted school funding claims, reports BBC

Janet Downs's picture

Claim of being ‘third biggest’ education spender included tuition fees and private spending

‘The OECD has recently confirmed that the UK is the third highest spender on education in the world,’ said the Department for Education (DfE) in a pre-emptive strike before headteachers gathered to highlight inadequate school funding.     

The claim was widely repeated in the media and in comments by Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb.   But the ‘third highest’ claim was misleading,  BBC education correspondent  reports.   

  • The data, from the OECD, included ALL spending on education, including tuition fees and private spending
  • It spanned all ages of education from primary to tertiary level
  • It covered the whole of the UK, not just England
  • The figures related to 2015

When all this backdated spending is used to rank countries according to how much is spent on education as a proportion of GDP, then the UK (not just England) is indeed ranked third.  But it’s misleading for the DfE, and Gibb in particular, to use data about overall funding to imply state funding of education in England is the third highest in the world.

Including private spending boosts UK’s ranking

The latest OECD* data (2015) ranks the UK 6th out of 35 OECD countries for the amount of private spending on education.  Among EU countries, the UK spends more privately on education than any of the other 27.   Including any private spending on education would boost the UK ranking - especially so if the private spending is well-above the OECD average.

UK falls to 12th place for public spending on primary and secondary education

Far from being 3rd in global rankings, the UK falls to 12th place for public spending on primary and secondary education.    Among the 35 OECD countries, the UK ranks 8th.  That’s in the top ten but it’s not as high as the figure the DfE boasted about.

Figures for the UK can’t be said to apply to England alone

Using UK figures to support claims about funding in England is unreliable.  Education is a devolved issue:  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland decide how much public money is allocated to education in their countries. 

England’s per head public spending on education lowest in UK

HM Treasury figures, which I’ll discuss in my next article, show public funding of education per head is lower in England than in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.    This suggests the global ranking for England based on how much public money as a percentage of GDP is spent on primary and secondary education would be lower than 12th position if these three countries were omitted.  



*OECD charts for public and private spending can be downloaded here  

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 03/10/2018 - 16:00

But if a huge proportion of expenditure is wasted on poorly accountable Academies and Free Schools that incur huge costs and have reputations for financial mismanagement, while pursuing ineffective teaching methods, any such claims are meaningless.

John Mountford's picture
Thu, 04/10/2018 - 19:38

This is all the confirmation any impartial observer could possibly require to demand a general election. The governent is guilty of wantonly misleading the public about the true situation relating to spending on education in England. It is brokering lies and deceipt. No wonder headteachers are waking up at last. The pitty is they have until now failed through their inaction. Funding is just the tip of a very large iceberg. But the blame for this and the many other serious failings of education to prepare young people for life in a fast-changing future is not entirely theirs.

Ministers, backed by a politically motivated Civil Service, are lying about education funding as Janet's expose confirms. Added to the lies, Roger is right to point out that untold sums of money are being siphoned off to fund minister's pet projects even when the evidence clearly establishes these new school structures have achieved little to improve the lot of young people in the system.

The claims made by the minister  and his cronies in the DfE are not simply misleading, they are downright lies. Surely such a flagrant abuse of power deserves firm action to remove this cancer from public life.

In a democratic country, public servants like Gibb and his colleagues  should be sacked for bringing their party, the government and the nation into disrepute. That so few people will respond appropriately to this catalogue of failures by demanding action is a disgrace. Why are the four individuals whose names appear as the co-founders of this site silent?

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.