The latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) shows that English 10-year-olds have fallen from 3rd to 19th place since 2001. The study of 45 countries and provinces showed that only the results of Morocco and Romania fell more sharply.
Predictably, but shamefully, Education Secretary Ed Balls tried to pin the blame on parents, but few will be fooled. Spending on primary and pre-primary education has increased from £16.8 billion in 2001-02 to £23.6 billion in 2006-07. By any measure, these results are an extremely poor return on that extra spending.
These results also pose serious questions for Gordon Brown's aspiration to increase state school funding per pupil to the level of private day schools. It simply isn't going to work. Rather than throwing yet more taxpayers money down the drain, the government should look to the countries that perform better than the UK - Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark have all freed their schools from political management, handing control to parents and teachers. The same approach could work wonders over here.