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Why we should not invest in education

Any teacher who put last year's pay rise into education shares will have had to cut back on Christmas presents.

Since December 2001, education firms have taken a battering on the stock market. An investor who bought pound;100 worth of shares in each of the nine leading education firms will now be left with just pound;371 worth of shares - a loss of pound;529.

The loss is more than twice as great as an investor whose portfolio matched the performance of the FTSE-100 share index.

Business support services company Amey, which is involved in the Government's controversial private finance initiative building programme and sponsors a city academy in Middlesbrough, is worst hit. Its share price has fallen from 385p to just 28.5p in the past 12 months.

Other leading PFI firms such as WS Atkins and Jarvis have also suffered, though the latter was damaged by bad publicity over its role in rail maintenance.

Research Machines, the information technology company which has dominated the education market, has been hit by a flattening of demand for computers in schools' as well as the general malaise in the technology sector.

Education services firms such as Capita, Serco and Nord Anglia fared slightly better as councils continued to contract out services though the Government's push for private intervention appeared to slow. Even so, the three have lost around half their market value.

Capita's performance has been affected by problems with key contracts such as the collapse of individual learning accounts and Criminal Records Bureau delays.

Best performer is Spring Group, whose teacher supply arm has benefited from staff shortages.

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