DfE drags top OECD statistics guru into schools spending row
Desperate attempt to make it appear DfE data has OECD seal of approval
In its panicked attempts to defuse the severe reprimand from the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) about the Department for Education’s misuse of date, the DfE has responded by citing Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the OECD.
The figures used by Schleicher refer to the entire UK not just England. But the DfE still wheels out the UK data to downplay mounting criticism about inadequate spending on England’s schools.
The correctness of OECD data not the issue
Schleicher confirms UK total education expenditure, including private and international spending, is ‘above the OECD average at primary, secondary, and tertiary level of education’. We know that. But the issue at stake is not the correctness of the statement – the issue is its use in the context of public spending in England. As UKSA said yesterday, using figures ‘unrelated to publicly funded schools’ gave ‘a more favourable picture’ of education funding in England.
DfE continues to pump the G7 comparison
The UK (not just England) topped the league for public spending on schools in the small group of G7 countries. The DfE blog mentioned the G7 comparison three times. The blog links to three spreadsheets where readers, presuming they know which countries are in the G7, can whizz up and down spotting the seven countries and compare their figures with the UK’s.
There’s a much easier way to make comparisons. Just link to the interactive OECD data* which allows sorting. In addition to the much-hyped G7 comparison, UK public spending on primary to post-secondary (non-tertiary) education ranked as follows:
- 4th among G20 and the 28 EU countries
- 8th among OECD countries
- 12th among all 44 countries in the OECD data
Questions around Schleicher’s involvement
Was Schleicher made aware of the damning UKSA censure of the DfE when asked for a comment? Or was he just asked to repeat data already published by the OECD? When was he asked? In the last few days? Or are his words a comment he made some time ago which have been wheeled out to give DfE statements an apparent OECD seal of approval?
We don’t know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that the DfE has rushed into print to soften UKSA’s reproach. But it’s not working.
See BBC Reality Check for unspun commentary re school funding