A new policy analysis by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) at LSE, 'Education, Education, Education': the evidence on school standards, parental choice and staying on, was published this week (Wednesday 22 February).
Dr Sandra McNally, research fellow at CEP and deputy directory of the Centre for the Economics of Education, explores the Labour government's record on schools and gives an outline of the policy alternatives. The focus is on educational resources and outcomes, choice, standards and post-compulsory participation in education.
The policy analysis found that:
Attainment at school has improved in recent years. But there are concerns about the extend to which this reflects 'teaching to the test' a and why, despite impressive improvements in primary school attainment in the late 1990s, this has subsequently stalled.
Education expenditures has risen substantially and is not 5.5 per cent of national income, compared to a rich country average of 5.7 per cent. There is some evidence that links expenditure with improved pupil performance, but the size and nature of the impact of resources on schools outcomes is hotly debated. Costly 'city academics', for example, are as yet unproven, but they may be the only way to help deprived inner city children.
There is much talk about 'choice' in education, for example, in the recent schools White Paper, where (in the words of the secretary of state for education) 'freedom for schools and power for parents' are the key themes. But parental choice is limited (and will continue to be) because state schools discriminate on the basis of residence.
There is some evidence that the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies have successfully increased standards, especially for boys.
The need to reform education for 14-19 year olds is based on the view that too few young people persist in education beyond the age of 16 and they leave schools with a low grasp of basic skills.
The Education Maintenance Allowance appears to have increased staying on rates for low-income pupils.
One reason for the high dropout rates may be the lack of good vocational options.
Click here to download a copy of 'Education, Education, Education': the evidence on school standards, parental choice and staying on (PDF)
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23 February 2006