UK slips from 1st to 4th in OECD for education spending

But UK spending is higher than the OECD average across different levels of education, report says

Catherine Lough

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The United Kingdom has slipped from first to fourth place out of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries in the proportion of funds spent on education, according to a new report.

The report, Education at a Glance, published today by the OECD, finds that the UK spent the "fourth-highest proportion of its gross domestic product (GDP) on primary to tertiary educational institution among OECD countries", based on 2018 data.


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In 2018, the UK spent on average 6.3 per cent of its GDP on education, 1.3 percentage points higher than the OECD average, the report states.

It adds: "Across levels of education, the United Kingdom devoted an above-average share of GDP at both non-tertiary and tertiary levels of education," the report says.

However, the OECD's 2017 report, based on data for 2015, found that the UK spent the highest proportion of its gross domestic production (6.6 per cent) on education, with the OECD average at the time standing as 5.2 per cent.

The extent to which education spending in England has increased or been cut in recent years has proved controversial, with ministers repeatedly claiming record levels of funding, while headteachers say their budgets are depleting.

In 2018, the UK Statistics Authority investigated the government over its claims, after it was revealed that its figures included billions of pounds of university and private school fees. 

At the time, the UK was ranked as the third-highest spender on education in the OECD as a proportion of its GDP.

And the Department for Education was last year reprimanded by the statistics watchdog over "the presentation of school funding figures".

The DfE was contacted for comment on today's OECD report.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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