The Speaker
Thursday, 30 May 2024 – 17:40

Department of Education accused of covering up school cuts

The UK Statistics Authority has received various complaints regarding a claim that the UK government’s spending on education was the third highest worldwide.

After the UK statistics watchdog decided to investigate the ministers’ spending on education, the UK government has been accused of covering up budget cuts for English schools in order to avoid criticism from the public.

The figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that university tuition fee loans and private school fees were accounted for when they actually do not fall into the Department of Education’s budget.

The department’s claim that there are 1.9 million more children in schools which are rated as good or outstanding by the education watchdog Ofsted compared to 2010, is currently facing a great deal of criticism.

While the 1.9 million figure appeared to be accurate, critics have said that some aspects were not taken into account and deemed the comparison meaningless.

A spokesperson for the regulator stated: 

“The UK Statistics Authority and the Office for Statistics Regulation are investigating the concerns raised, and will publish their findings shortly.”

Last Friday, more than 2,000 headteachers protested against the funding cuts in England. As a result of the protests, the department defended itself by stating:

“The OECD has recently confirmed that the UK is the third highest spender on education in the world, spending more per pupil than countries including Germany, Australia and Japan.”

The OECD figures not only included the government’s spending on university tuition loans and fees paid to private schools in England, but also included spending on education in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which is often devolved to assemblies from those countries. The DfE’s budget does not often cover the latter.

Jules White, a headteacher from a school in West Sussex and one of the organisers of the protest commented on the issue by stating that the department has tried to cover up “savage cuts that have been made to school budgets”.

She added: 

“At every stage, the government and Department for Education has refused to acknowledge an overwhelming independent body of evidence which clearly confirms that the cuts have gone too far.

“Ministers have now been caught out and we appeal to them to stop the pattern of using dreadfully misleading information which is unfair to educational professionals and most crucially to parents and pupils.”

According to the Institute fr Fiscal Studies (IFS), the DfE’s funding has fallen by 8% between 2010 and now. Compared to 2017, there are now 66,000 more students in state schools but 5,000 teachers fewer.

As a response to this issue, a spokesperson from the DfE stated:

The most informative OECD statistic on school funding is that in 2015 among G7 nations, the UK government spent the highest percentage of GDP on institutions delivering primary and secondary education.

“This is one of several statistics in the OECD report that demonstrate the UK is among the highest spenders on education at primary and secondary level, whether you look at spend as a share of GDP, spend as a share of government spending or spend per pupil. Other independently verified statistics show the government is investing in schools – the IFS found that real terms per pupil funding in 2020 will be over 50% higher than it was in 2000.”

Shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said that the Labour party complained to the authority about the figures. Rayner stated: 

“The Tories have been caught red-handed trying to get away with yet more discredited statistics in a desperate attempt to bury the consequences of their own cuts. It is time that the government stopped making up their figures and started facing up to the facts. The prime minister promised that austerity was over, but if she means a word of it then the chancellor must undo the years of damage the Tories have caused to our school system and tackle the education funding crisis in this month’s budget.”

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