22nd January 2010 at 00:00
Local authorities with worse primary pupil-teacher ratios in 2009 than 1979

One thing is certain about 2010: there will be a general election at some point in the first half of the year.

School funding is likely to be preserved by the new government, but at what levels? Much has changed since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, but one measure that has remained in constant use throughout the intervening period has been the pupil teacher ratio (PTR).

Across England PTRs in the primary sector have improved from 23.1 pupils per teacher in 1979 to 21.4 in 2009.

But not all schools have benefited from the gains. Although it is impossible to track the fate of individual institutions, trends across local authorities can be identified. A look back at 1979 shows 14 authorities where the primary PTRs were worse in 2009 than 40 years ago.

If those local authorities that had middle schools in 1979, and not in 2009, are removed, there are still nine areas where primary PTRs were the same or worse in 2009 than in 1979. These include Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Haringey, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and North and South Tyneside, as well as Hertfordshire.

That performance at key stage 2 is below the national average in many of these authorities suggests that the present funding system is not working effectively as a means of allocating funds. Whether the pupil premium method advocated by opposition parties will do better, only time will tell

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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