Publication Education and skills 15 June, 2015

How to run a country: education

Read the full report  

Reform is this week publishing recommendations for the 2015 Spending Review. Each day we will publish analysis for each of the main areas of public spending.

Improving value for money is the greatest challenge for the education sector this Parliament. Sustaining or raising school pupils’ achievement at a lower cost to the taxpayer will benefit all public service users by maximising the impact of school education and freeing up funds for other sectors, such as college and further education.

The chapter presents new figures for education productivity in the UK as a whole. Productivity in education refers to the amount of activity needed within the sector to deliver the same standard of education to the same number of people. Using data from two international student assessments, the report finds that official productivity figures published by the Office for National Statistics are almost certainly overestimated. Rather than the recent reported growth, productivity may well be in decline. The extent to which this is true depends on whether improvements in test results reflect real improvements in the quality of education. To meet the schools productivity challenge, the report argues that the new Government must focus on three areas of reform:

  • More autonomy: by encouraging schools to use their autonomy to innovate, the future challenges facing the school system will be addressed more effectively and at a lower cost.
  • Better accountability: by improving school accountability, schools will focus on raising achievement for all, but particularly for the least advantaged.
  • Fairer funding: a consistent and fair funding formula would reallocate resource to the most disadvantaged pupils and allow a better comparison of schools’ relative value for money.

In particular, the report recommends the following: The Government should extend academy freedoms to all schools. This should include the freedom to hire unqualified teachers and make changes to teachers’ terms and conditions. It should also remove the barriers to schools joining school groups, with a view to encouraging more schools to innovate. The Government should introduce a national funding formula that is fair and consistent across schools with similar pupil intakes weighted for pupils’ deprivation and local labour market conditions. The Government should consider the broader impact of education spending decisions on improving employment opportunities for the most disadvantaged. It should integrate school destination data with employment data, including earnings and out-of-work benefits.