News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lib Dem Education policy doesn't add up

This week, the British Lib Dems unveiled a new education policy. It's full of nice sounding measures, as usual. However, the funds they have announced for the plan do not come close to the actual cost.

Scrapping the Children's account, whereby the Government gives each baby £250 would have saved £172,503,250 in 2007, when there were 690,013 live births in England and Wales. Yet the cost of employing the 38,304 extra teachers required to reduce class sizes as proposed would cost £937,752,284.84 for salaries (based on the minimum starting salary of £20,627), employer pension contributions (at 14%, as required by the teachers' contract) and mandatory employer National Insurance contributions. Once London weightings and experience points are added, the cost would be even higher, even before taking into account training costs, administration and costs of advertising the posts. Thus, implementing the reduced class sizes for 5-7 year olds would require massive, unidentified cuts to other parts of the budget.

In addition, these teachers are going to need classrooms. 38,304 classrooms, in fact. According to the Department for Education and Skills, there are 482,000 vacant primary school places, a vacancy rate of 11%. A minimum of 5% of places need to be vacant to ensure that there are placees for children to move between schools when they move to a different area or need to change schools for another reason. Thus, even if the vacant classrooms are all exactly where they are needed (which is highly unlikely), the policy requires the construction of 29,540 new classrooms. A typical classroom in Peterborough, for example, costs £137,000 to build, meaning that a massive £5,247,680,000 would have to be added to schools' capital budgets.

That's before even considering the second part of the proposal - to increase spending on educating "disadvantaged" pupils to the same level as private schools. Under this plan, schools will be paid a "pupil premium" for every child in attendance who is entitled to a free school meal, at a total cost of £2,500,000,000 per year.

So, in the first five years alone, the Lib Dems are proposing to spend an additional £12,750,000,000 but have only identified £862,500,000 of funding for the scheme. Where is the other almost £12 billion going to come from? Britain is already hopelessly indebted after 12 years of Socialism, so that is not an option and the Lib Dems have already said that they plan to cut taxes.

Of course, this is all assuming that 38,304 people are sitting at home waiting to train as teachers. They aren't, which is why there is a massive shortage of teachers, particularly in key subjects like Maths, English and Science. That's why the Government runs adverts on television, in magazines and newspapers, on buses and on advertising hoardings urging people to become teachers, all at vast cost. It's also why the Government pays teachers' tuition fees back to them when they start work. The actual cost of the Lib Dem scheme would be phenomenal, and yet still it would never be achievable.

Even if the scheme was workable and affordable, I don't believe that it would make a jot of difference to underachieving childrens' academic performance. It's not just money that often leaves the less affluent children at the bottom of the class - which is why you can find children from poor backgrounds excelling, and others from very wealthy homes struggling. Often, the children who are at the bottom of the class are there because their parents do not value education, and that has rubbed off on their children. Throwing vast sums of money will not solve that problem - only the parents can do that.


Charles said...

My wife is from Britain and she wanted to know if your family once lived in Sidcup. She imagines your sister is Sarah and your mother is Ann. If you are uncomfortable answering thats fine. She is the stalker not me.HaHa.

Dan Hassett said...

Hi Charles,

Sorry, that's not me. As far as I know, I don't have any relatives in Sidcup, or any called Sarah or Ann.

Nice to hear from you anyway!