In case you hadn’t noticed, there seems to be a fairly important leadership race taking place. This is, of course, being dominated by Brexit. But many of the candidates have also announced grand education spending plans.
Michael Gove has said he will spend an extra one billion pounds on schools. Sajid Javid has reportedly promised “billions more for education” if he becomes PM. While the front runner, Boris Johnson, has said his government will spend at least £5,000 on every secondary pupil.
Theresa May has even got in on the act, reportedly setting a £27 billion education “spending trap” for whoever follows her into office.
Anyway, if the politicians are to be believed, we are soon going to see a lot more money for education. But what should the lucky fellow who receives this grand windfall spend this money on?
Evidence from TALIS
As part of the OECD’s large, nationally representative Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), teachers in England (and several other countries across the world) were asked the following question about whether they considered 10 different possible areas of spending to be of low, moderate or high importance:
‘Thinking about education as a whole, if the budget were to be increased by 5%, how would you rate the importance of the following spending priorities?’
- Reducing teachers’ administration load by recruiting more support staff
- Reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff
- Supporting Special Educational Needs (SEN) pupils
- Improving teacher salaries
- Offering high quality Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers
- Supporting pupils receiving free school meals (FSM)
- Improving school buildings and facilities
- Supporting pupils with English as an additional language (EAL)
- Investing in ICT
- Investing in instructional materials
The results for lower-secondary teachers in England (in comparison to the OECD average) can be found in Figure 1. This gives the percentage of teachers who said that the area was of high importance for additional spending.
Figure 1. Priorities for additional spending for lower-secondary teachers. England compared to the OECD average.
Source: TALIS 2018 database; question 55. TALIS 2018 report for England; section 7.1.
In response, teachers have provided a clear message to politicians and education policymakers. The extra money Boris and co are pledging should be devoted to recruiting more support staff to reduce teachers’ administrative loads and to recruiting more teaching staff. In total, 73% (reducing class sizes by employing more teachers) and 66% (reducing admin load by recruiting more support staff) of lower-secondary teachers in England regarded these areas as high spending priorities. These were also the only areas where England was above the average across industrialised (OECD) countries.
In fact, teachers in England were more likely to want the government to put more money into these areas than they were to want a pay rise! Now that must surely tell the future PM something.
The voice of teachers
Although Brexit may be taking centre stage in the race to become England’s next Prime Minister, education nevertheless seems to be considered by many of the contenders as an important support act.
And the voice of teachers has spoken. We need to recruit more staff.
Now lets wait and see if the winner of the leadership contest makes good on their promises, and that teachers get the additional support that they feel they need.