Spending per pupil ‘higher in Scotland than elsewhere in UK’

Research has been carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Spending per pupil ‘higher in Scotland than elsewhere in UK’ iStock

Scotland has the highest spending on schools per pupil of any UK nation, analysis has found.

Teacher pay rises and additional funding during the coronavirus pandemic have reversed real terms spending cuts during the past decade, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said.

Its research found spending per pupil between 2009–10 and 2014–15 fell by 7% in real terms, but then increased by the same percentage over the subsequent five years.

The biggest increase in the Scottish Government’s funding for schools was a 6% real terms rise in 2019-20, amounting to an additional £400 per pupil, driven by a 7% increase of teacher pay scales and a further backdated 3% rise.

It means that by 2021-22, Scotland is estimated to be spending £7600 per pupil – more than £800 higher than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Luke Sibieta, author of the research at the IFS, said: “Over the last decade, there were cuts to school spending per pupil right across the UK.

“In Scotland, large recent increases mean that spending has more than recovered and core spending per pupil is now likely to be over £800 higher than in the rest of the UK.

“Despite recent increases, spending per pupil in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is still close to or just below levels seen a decade earlier.

“However, it is important to remember higher spending need not automatically translate into better educational outcomes.

“Indeed, international comparisons of test scores suggest numeracy and science scores were declining in high-spending Scotland relative to the OECD average up to 2018.

“It remains to be seen whether extra spending in Scotland since 2018 will arrest this trend.”

Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation that funded the study, added: “This IFS analysis shows that the increasing divergence in education policy between the four nations of the UK extends to school spending per pupil, where funding to support Scottish pupils has held up better than for their counterparts in the other nations.

“A major cause for concern is that funding for education recovery programmes in response to the pandemic is much lower across all four nations than those being implemented in comparable countries.”

SNP MSP and former teacher Kaukab Stewart said: “This investment is paying off. School buildings are in the best condition since records began, teacher numbers are higher than they’ve been since 2008, this year the number of Higher passes was at its highest since devolution, the number of Scottish students accepted to university is at a record high, and much more.

“As we move out of the pandemic and into recovery, it is vital that our schools are put on a footing to continue to get the best for Scotland’s young people.

“Closing the poverty-related attainment gap remains one of the SNP Government’s defining missions. That’s why, over the course of this Parliament, we will invest a further £1bn, with a refreshed Scottish Attainment Challenge.”

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