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Pre-five gap rivals Portugal

Secondary education in most EU countries absorbs around 45 per cent of education spending, while primary is at 24 per cent and higher education at 22 per cent. Britain, alongside Portugal, is one of the lowest spenders on pre-school education, at 3 per cent.

The independent study reveals that education spending grew in real terms in the majority of countries over the seven-year period. In Britain, it rose by more than 30 per cent. But a different comparison, and one highlighted by the EIS, shows education spending fell as a percentage of total spending.

When output falls, the evidence suggests education is protected. "It is important that education does not lose out to other categories of public expenditure nor be allowed to significantly drag behind growth in national income," Coopers Lybrand says.

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