Education spending per head in England stagnated since 2012/13

Janet Downs's picture

Per capita spending in  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland higher in 2016/17 than in 2012/13

Per head public spending on education England has remained static since 2012/13, HM Treasury data* released in November 2017 show.  In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, however, it’s more.  

In 2012/13, the amount of public money per head spent on education in England was £1,307.  In 2016/17 it was £1,306.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, education spending per head in 2016/17 was higher than in 2012/13.  Scotland’s per capita spending rose consistently by nearly £100 to £1,512.  In Wales, education spending per head fluctuated but the 2016/17 figure was £26 per head higher than in 2012/13.   Spending also fluctuated in Northern Ireland but was £36 more per head in 2016/17.

Only in England was the amount per head the same in 2016/17 as it was in 2012/13.

Spending in England per head fell to £1,280 in 2015/16

In 2015/16,  per capita spending in England dropped to £1,280, a fall from £1,302 the previous year.

The Government could argue that England is merely more efficient than the rest of the UK.  It could cite the last round of PISA results which showed England scored higher than the other three countries as evidence.  But in the context of the school funding scandal in England, claims of efficiency won’t wash.  The figures show that per capita public investment in education in England is now the same in cash terms as it was in 2012/13.


 FOOTNOTE:  Caution required

Tempting as it is to throw these figures at the Department for Education, especially as it constantly publishes misleading data about funding, it’s important to note caveats (something the DfE is loath to do).

The figures presumably include funding for university-level education as well as primary and secondary level.  It may even include pre-primary education such as the free places in nursery schools.  This makes it difficult to apply to school funding only.

 Education funding in the context of these figures wasn’t calculated according to school population but overall population.  This fluctuates.  A sudden rise in the birth rate in any one year increases the overall population.  The higher figure would decrease per capita funding.

The Treasury says ‘the Country and Regional Analysis is a purely statistical exercise and plays no part in resource allocation or the operation of the Barnett Formula’.

Finally, the Barnett Formula which, the BBC tells me, has resulted in England having the lowest public expenditure per head than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The formula’s been criticised for ‘allocating spending according to population size, rather than the amount that each nation actually needs.’

But we can’t blame Barnett for the stagnant per head spending on education in England when per capita spending in the other countries was higher in 2016/17  than in 2012/13.  Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland choose how to spend their allocation just as the English government does.  And, although the Treasury says their figures play no part in resource allocation, they do reflect it.


*see pages 25-37 for charts.

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