Figures show best-performing state schools cheaper than the average

by Stephen Tall on January 27, 2012

The school league tables were published yesterday, and this snippet from The Guardian caught my attention:

The tables also show the average state secondary school spends £5,712 per pupil, but 30 state schools spend more than £10,000 per pupil. In state schools where over 90% of pupils achieve five or more grades at A* to C at GCSE, including English and maths, average spend is £5,096 per pupil.

So the best-performing state schools spend less per pupil than the average school.

In one sense this is obvious. Schools which are under-performing will have money targeted at them — indeed, the Lib Dems’ ‘pupil premium’ explicitly targets children who qualify for free school meals (family income <£16,000), which will therefore produce a higher per pupil average cost in the challenging schools where low attainment is an issue. Still, the figure is interesting. For a start, it strikes me as incredibly efficient — a top-quality education for £5k a year is deeply impressive. And secondly, it does suggest there’s more to children’s attainment than simply money: supportive families, effective teaching, high aspirations exert a much more powerful influence.