Education spend refocused on poorest pupils, IFS finds

1 Nov 18

Education spending has undergone a “remarkable shift” in focus towards poorer pupils, Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis has found.

Policies adopted in the 2000s mean children from poorer families now have more spent on their education than their more affluent counterparts, reversing the historic situation.

In the 1980s, richer children benefited more from public spending on education because they were much more likely to stay on in education after the age of 16.

Even as late as 2003, among children taking GCSEs, those from the richest fifth of families were getting £6,000 more spent on their education than those from the poorest fifth.

However, policies to target more funding at poorer pupils and encourage them to stay on in education have paid off, IFS research carried out for the Nuffield Foundation found.

By 2010, the extra funding targeted at the poorest children almost tripled from £3,500 to £9,500. And participation in 16-18 education is now almost universal, at over 95% across all groups.

Luke Sibieta, IFS research fellow and a co-author of the report, said: “In less than a decade over the 2000s, education spending shifted from being skewed towards richer pupils to being skewed towards poorer pupils instead.

“This is a remarkable shift in the shape of public spending, with an increasing amount of redistribution taking place through public service spending.”

Sibieta also noted that cuts to welfare spending and children’s services were likely to counterbalance some of these gains.

“Nevertheless, the empirical evidence suggests that focusing more education spending on poorer pupils should lead to substantial improvements in their life chances,” he said.

The research also considered the impact of the abolition of university tuition, finding this would benefit the richest fifth of households more than twice as much as poorer ones, as wealthier youngsters are still more likely to go on to higher education.

  • Vivienne Russell
    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and

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