Welsh pupils blighted as money is 'diverted'

14th November 2008 at 00:00
Gulf between them and their English counterparts grows as Assembly directs funding to Welsh language and other projects, says academic

There is a growing gulf between education in England and in Wales, research commissioned by The TES reveals. Underinvestment by the Assembly government means that Welsh pupils are slipping behind their English counterparts.

David Reynolds, professor of education at Plymouth University, was asked by The TES to investigate increasing complaints of underfunding in Welsh schools.

He found that the difference between spending in England and in Wales has increased consistently since devolution in 1999. This year, he estimates that 10 per cent more will be spent on English pupils than on their Welsh counterparts.

This works out as approximately Pounds 500 per pupil, or several hundred thousand pounds per year for an average, 950-pupil secondary.

"It is difficult to avoid a sense of shame looking at these figures," Professor Reynolds said. "They mean young lives are blighted and young potential is unrealised."

The difference between the two countries' spending has significantly affected individual schools.

Fixed costs, such as teachers' salaries, account more than 90 per cent of expenditure. Because additional funds are available to English schools, they have enough money to buy books and equipment, and to train staff. Welsh schools have virtually no money left over.

"The consequences of this for the quality of Welsh children's daily education and for the morale of teachers are likely to be severe," Professor Reynolds said.

In fact, he blames this funding discrepancy for the poor performance of Welsh 15-year-olds in international league tables, lagging behind those from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

And the gap between English and Welsh pupils achieving five good GCSE grades has consistently increased. In 2001, 0.2 per cent more English than Welsh pupils achieved five A*-C grades; by 2007 this difference had risen to 8 per cent.

In the decade leading up to devolution, expenditure per pupil in education increased by 20.2 per cent in Wales, compared with 16.7 per cent in England.

By contrast, between 2002 and 2007, funding for education and training increased by 33 per cent in Wales and 44 per cent in England.

Instead, the Assembly government has been spending its money on administrative costs, as well as on recreation, culture, religion and high-profile commitments to the Welsh language and the arts.

An Assembly spokesperson said: "As usual, David Reynolds seems content to run Wales down. He should stop looking over his shoulder to the rest of the UK and open his eyes to see the excellent work of schools, local authorities and government which is improving the lives of learners across Wales."

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