Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

School cash worth two extra GCSEs

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Exam room
The statistician measured quality by looking at GCSE results

Labour's record investment in schools and colleges has produced an average increase of just two GCSEs at grade C per pupil, statisticians say.

This equates to an annual 2.5% increase in average GCSE scores - which is how the Office for National Statistics measures quality in education.

Statisticians say value for money had remained flat since 1996 and even fell 0.7% between 2007 and 2008.

Ministers said the report presented a very narrow view of schools.

Statisticians from the ONS looked at value for money or "productivity" in UK education between 1996 and last year.

If productivity was the main goal then we could simply double class sizes to double the amount of teaching done by one person
Venron Coaker
Schools minister

They measured this by dividing education outputs - defined as the number of pupils and what they achieved - by publicly funded education inputs - such as staff, goods and services and money.

The statisticians said the average annual increase in educational output equated to an extra GCSE, at grade C, every five years. At the same time productivity over the period has remained fairly static.

One of the statisticians, Helen Patterson said: "What we are saying is that output has grown by 33% and input has grown by 33% leaving productivity the same has it was in 1996."

The statisticians did acknowledge that to sum up educational attainment in this one measure, attainment at GCSE or equivalent, did not reflect the wider benefits of education such as teaching children to stay safe or eat healthily.

They insisted they were using an approved model but that they were working to improve it and widen it.

'Wider outcomes'

But she warned that there were some problems in attributing some of the wider outcomes, such as reducing teenage pregnancy or obesity rates, to the efforts of schools as parents and other agencies also had a part to play.

A separate report for the ONS said schools were likely to have a very low influence on issues such as diet and obesity, rates of smoking, substance abuse and teenage pregnancies.

This may be a disappointment to the Department for Children, Schools and Families as rates have fallen in most of these areas over the past few years.

The same report, however, highlighted a rise in teaching standards in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

'Value for money'

In 2007-8, in England for example some 64% of primary schools in which teaching quality are rated good compared to 60% in 2005-6.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said there was far more to a school and a child's time at there than productivity.

"The report doesn't take into account the wider outcomes for children such as the universal childcare offer for all three and four-year-olds or the hard work of teachers to narrow the achievement gap for disadvantaged pupils.

"If productivity was the main goal then we could simply double class sizes to double the amount of teaching done by one person but clearly that would have a devastating impact on education."

He said raising standards across the board was the key and that government investment had increased the quality of education by almost 40% since 1996."

Productivity has fallen since 2000 because higher spending hasn't been matched by necessary reform. Productivity would be even worse if the figures reflected the drift away from core academic subjects over the last few years.

Shadow Schools minister Nick Gibb said: "Huge sums of money have been spent on fortnightly initiatives and bureaucracy which are burying teachers under a mountain of paperwork and which rarely lead to improvements in education."

Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws said the figures showed the government had failed to secure good value for money for a large amount of the extra investment made over the last decade.

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