The Department for Education started publishing schools’ spending data for England almost 10 years ago. In that time there have been significant changes in education, not least the conversion of most secondary schools from maintained ones into academies. Over 500 free schools are now open across every region of England, with the prime minister pledging in September 2019 to open a further 220 over the coming years.
Yet all too often, discussions of total education spending are conflated with outcomes. Rather than merely looking at school revenues, the data offered by the Department for Education incorporates achievement with the proportion of pupils on free school meals, the number of supply teachers, total teaching staff spending and income per pupil. The percentage of pupils on free school meals is a common measure of deprivation and is often used by the government to target spending, while income per pupil measures how much money is reaching the frontline. These outcomes are far more important to taxpayers than the abstract spending sums talked about by government ministers. Using regression analysis and other statistical tools, this paper provides an update on our 2011 publication, A statistical analysis of secondary school spending using Department for Education datasets for 2017-18.
- Spending on supply teachers in English secondary schools in 2017-18 was £61.8 million, or £21,472 per school. This is a substantial decline from 2009-10 – the first year such data was available – when the total was £293 million in non-academy secondary schools alone.
- Schools with more than 30 per cent of pupils on free school meals (comprising 184 schools) spent less on supply teachers compared to 2009-10, averaging at £16,702. This compares to £21,805 for schools with less than 30 per cent of pupils on free school meals.
- Compared to 2009-10, there is now a weaker correlation of supply teacher spending with the percentage of children on free school meals, meaning children who most needed stability in their teachers were more likely to receive it.
Progress 8 gauges a student’s improvement between key stage 2 and 4. The progress 8 measure for the 184 schools with more than 30 per cent of pupils on free school meals was on average -0.28. It was 0.02 for the remaining schools.
- The average income per pupil in schools with more than 30 per cent of pupils on free school meals was £7,801. At the remaining schools, it was £6,033.
- The proportion of pupils on free school meals in maintained, free schools and academies was 14.6 per cent, 15.5 per cent and 12.9 per cent respectively. The average income per pupil in maintained, free schools and academies was £6,035, £8,093 and £6,093 respectively.
- This means that free schools teach a higher proportion of disadvantaged pupils, receiving higher income per pupil, while achieving higher attainment. Free schools therefore perform better compared to maintained and academy school Maintained schools’ progress 8 measure was -0.05, compared to 0.27 in free schools and 0.02 in academies.
- There is also evidence that academy schools perform better than maintained schools. However, there is an underperformance by sponsor-led academies whose progress 8 measure was -0.19, compared to converter academies’ 0.11.