Britain: Spending doesn’t improve schools

“There is no correlation at all between the level of per-pupil funding and educational outcomes,” concludes a Deloitte analysis of British schools, reports The Telegraph. The Department of Education had commissioned the study to provide support  for a “pupil premium” — extra funding — for disadvantaged students.

The report confirms what’s obvious to parents, editorializes The Telegraph: “Ethos is what matters most – and you can’t buy a good ethos. Head teachers who turn around a school are utterly priceless, in every way.”

We’d say “culture” instead of  “ethos” and “principal” for “head teacher.”

There’s evidence that a well-run school will use extra funds to improve, going from good to very good or very good to excellent. But more money doesn’t help if the school lacks strong leadership.

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  1. Not exactly news that the connection between funding and school quality’s, at best, tenuous. However, knowing what doesn’t go into making a good school isn’t quite the same thing as knowing what does so Mr. Nelson’s invocation of the undefined quality of “ethos” isn’t made more credible by his proof that the assumption of the pivotal nature of funding is less credible.

    Politically, the report has some value although not as much as some folks assume since the response to funding increases is visceral and not amenable to reason. More money is always going to be easy to sell as a good idea for any institution you support even if you know it’s not going to buy you what you’d prefer to believe it will.

    What’s need is a new policy direction and that’s parental choice.

    • momof4 says:

      One of the big factors driving the desire for parent choice is the current willingness to allow disruptive students to remain in regular classrooms. It doesn’t matter if the issue is general mischief, spec ed-related or thug behavior; class time is lost and student learning is disrupted. Parents may not be aware of curriculum or instructional deficiencies, but they do understand their second-grader coming home terrified of classmate A who kicks, bites, throws books and attacks classmates with scissors, of student B who has seizures in class, student C who is bullying classmates or student D who has regular screaming/crying fits.

      • Well sure. After all, parents typically expect two things of schools, 1) their child is safe and 2) their child gets an education.

        Without the first the second’s not likely to happen and the only reason any parent would leave their child in a school in which their child isn’t safe and isn’t getting educated is if that parent has no other choice.

        Since the people who run and are employed by the public education system understand that many parents don’t have any other choices there’s really no point in concerning themselves with the concerns of parents. Not all of course but that’s the direction the structure of public education pushes otherwise reasonable, compassionate and responsible adults.

      • Mike in Texas says:

        Agreed, but the problem lies with the politicians who make the rules. As a teacher I want nothing more than to be rid of the destructive students, but send too many students out of the classroom from certain groups and you get chided by the state. Expel too many students for behavior not conducive to learning and get your funding slashed.

        • Mark Roulo says:

          “Agreed, but the problem lies with the politicians who make the rules.”


          And I agree with *this*, but the adult voters are the ones who elect the politicians. As a group, we have to be somewhat okay with the current tradeoffs or we would have voted for a different set of politicians …

        • Roger Sweeny says:

          This is one area where I feel the unions fall down. They do nothing to oppose these destructive policies. And we as union members don’t push them to.

          • It’s not the job of a union to make improvements to the employer of its members and efforts in that direction wouldn’t be welcomed by either the membership of the union or the management of the employing organization.

            The problem’s the way public education’s structured but that shouldn’t take us too far from the startling realization that funding levels have essentially no relationship to the quality of the education kids get.

            Of course the conclusion implied by that tidbit of information is that no more money should be spent then is necessary to get acceptable results and that amount’s less then what’s currently being spent.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Unions bargain about working conditions all the time. And every teachers union convention passes lots of resolutions on education policy. The fact that they have not pushed the ideas in Mike’s post is an indictment of them.

        • the problem lies with the politicians who make the rules.

          Courts have made a lot of those rules, based on “feel good” law like Title IX.  The problem is that you can’t un-elect a Federal judge for making some really bad case law, and Congress refuses to impeach the loose cannons.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Every time a judge interprets a law in a way that Congress dislikes, the Senators and Representatives are perfectly free to change the law. The fact that they often don’t is their fault.

            They could change Title IX at any time.

          • Stacy in NJ says:

            Politicians, at least Democrats, depend on campaign contributions from unions. Just another element of captured government.

          • GoogleMaster says:

            Did you really mean Title IX (girls in sports and other activities), or did you perhaps mean Title I (NCLB) or Title II (ADA/sped)? Or, dear god, how many of these are there, Title III (HBCU/ELL)? Probably not Title IV (finaid). I’ll stop searching now.

  2. Jiinkies, so much to keep track of.

    Dr. James Tooley’s work investigating the private schools of the poorest of the poor is rather more definitive in terms of putting the lie the need for ever-increasing funding for public education and does, in fact, make it clear that public education is currently over-funded and by quite a bit.