Children from richer families used to benefit much more from public spending on education than did those from poorer backgrounds.

Back in the 1980s, this gap was very big as few poorer children stayed in education past age 16, let alone went on to higher education.

Even among those taking their GCSEs in 2003, those from the richest fifth of families were getting nearly £6,000 more spent on their education than were those from the poorest fifth.

That gap had closed for the generation taking GCSEs in 2010. Children from poorer backgrounds now have more spent on their education than do those from better-off families.

This remarkable shift in the distribution of education spending has been driven by increases in the amount of funding targeted at poorer pupils, as well as by a narrowing of socio-economic gaps in post-16 and higher education participation.

Policies such as the pupil premium and further narrowing of socio-economic gaps in higher education participation mean that education spending is now likely to be skewed towards poorer pupils.

These are the main findings from new research released by IFS researchers, "Socio-economic differences in total education spending in England: middleclass welfare no more" which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

IFS follow pupils in state-funded schools in England who took their GCSEs between 2003 and 2010 through their education careers and measure the amount of spending they received based on the institutions they attended.

Pupils benefit from a large amount of state funding for education in the 12+ years they spend in formal education, about £73,000 on average for pupils aged 16 in Summer 2010 in England. The total amount they experience is shaped by their education choices (e.g. whether to stay on post 16 and/or go to higher education) and the nature of the funding system for each stage of education. In the 1980s, considerably more was spent on the education of those from well-off backgrounds than on those from poorer backgrounds. This was driven by the fact that poorer children were much less likely to stay in education beyond 16, let alone go to university. And funding for higher education (HE) was relatively high.

In this report, we find that these differences in funding by social class have now vanished. Changes to the distribution of school funding, increased staying-on rates and reforms to HE funding mean that there was no difference in the amount of public money spent in total on educating the poorest and richest pupils who were taking their GCSEs in 2010. This has happened despite the facts that richer pupils remain much more likely to enrol in HE and that public subsidy for HE remains substantial.

Since 2010, the funding system has become even more beneficial to lower-income students relative to the better off. This is in part because of further school funding reforms, in part because post-16 participation rates have risen and in part because funding for school sixth forms (where better-off children are more likely to study) has been cut relative to funding for colleges (which are more likely to serve poorer students).

This is a remarkable change over time. A system that was substantially skewed in funding terms towards the better off is now, if anything, skewed towards the least well off.

Socio-economic differences in total education funding had evaporated by 2010. Amongst pupils taking their GCSEs in Summer 2010, those in the richest andpoorest socio-economic quintiles received about £73,000 in total funding acrossall stages of education. This represents a major reversal. Amongst pupils takingtheir GCSEs in Summer 2003, those in the richest quintile received about £5,900 more than those in the poorest quintile.

School funding has become much more targeted towards poorer pupils. In 2003, there was already a £3,500 funding advantage in total school funding infavour of pupils from poorer families (looking over 12 years of schooling). As a result of various reforms to the school funding system, this grew to £9,500 by 2010, with pupils in the poorest quintile experiencing about £57,700 of schoolfunding in total.

Participation in 16–18 education is now near universal. In 2003, pupils from richer families were about 11 percentage points more likely to stay in post-16 education than those from poorer families. By 2010, participation was over 95% amongst all groups, reducing this gap to 2 percentage points.

This change in participation has more than halved the socio-economic gap in post-16 funding. In 2003, pupils from richer families ended up receiving about £2,800 more in total post-16 spending than those from poorer families. For pupils taking their GCSEs in Summer 2010, this gap had shrunk to £1,200.

Children from poorer families are much more likely to attend colleges rather than school sixth forms. Amongst those taking their GCSEs in Summer 2010,about 58% of pupils from poorer families attended a further education or sixth-form college as opposed to 21% who attended a school sixth form. Amongst pupils from the least deprived quintile, about 41% attended a college and 47%attended a school sixth form. These substantial differences will have acted toincrease socio-economic gaps in spending, given that school sixth forms receivedhigher levels of funding per student until quite recently.

Socio-economic gaps in higher education participation narrowed over the 2000s. Amongst pupils taking their GCSEs in 2003, children from richer families were about 33 percentage points more likely to go on to higher education. This meant that children from the richest quintile received more than three times the level of higher education spending experienced by those from the poorest quintile. The participation gap narrowed slightly to about 28 percentage points for pupils taking their GCSEs in Summer 2010. This reduced the funding gap, but children from richer families still experienced more than double the amount of HE spending received by those from poorer families.

Pupils from richer families benefit more from long-run public subsidies to higher education. This is because they are more than twice as likely to go to higher education. Although pupils from richer backgrounds are likely to earn more themselves as graduates, and thus make larger student loan repayments,such differences would need to be implausibly large to cancel out the effects of differences in participation.

Pupils from richer families would benefit more from the abolition of tuition fees, which again results from the fact that they are more likely to go to higher education. We find that pupils in the richest quintile would benefit by more than twice as much from such an abolition as those in the poorest quintile.

Reforms since 2010 are likely to have increased total funding in favour of pupils from poorer backgrounds. The pupil premium was introduced from 2011 onwards. Reforms to post-16 funding have tended to favour colleges, which poorer pupils are more likely to attend, rather than school sixth forms. Evidence also suggests that socio-economic gaps in higher education participation have fallen slightly over time, though these remain substantial.

Main findings are as follows:

  • School funding has become much more targeted at poorer pupils. In 2003, there was already a £3,500 funding advantage in total school funding in favour of pupils from poorer families (looking over 12 years of schooling). This grew to £9,500 by 2010, such that pupils in the poorest fifth of households received 20% more funding on average while at school than did those from the richest fifth. This was the intended and direct result of reforms to the school funding system over the 2000s.
  • Participation in 16–18 education is now near universal. In the late 1980s, children from richer families were about twice as likely to stay on in education after age 16 as those from poorer families, a gap of over 35 percentage points. In 2003, pupils from richer families were about 11 percentage points more likely to stay in 16–18 education than those from poorer families. By 2010, participation was over 95% across all groups. Socio-economic gaps in 16–18 funding narrowed as a result.
  • Socio-economic gaps in higher education participation have narrowed slightly and reduced funding gaps. Amongst pupils taking their GCSEs in 2003, children from richer families were about 33 percentage points more likely to go on to higher education than those from poorer families. This gap was down to 28 percentage points for those who took their GCSEs in 2010. As a result, pupils from richer families on average benefited from about double the level of higher education spending received by those from poorer families, down from three times as much in 2003.
  • The abolition of tuition fees would benefit students from the richest fifth of households by more than twice as much as those from the poorest fifth. That’s because richer pupils are more likely to go to higher education and earn more as graduates themselves.
  • Socio-economic differences in total education spending evaporated by 2010. Amongst pupils taking their GCSEs in 2003, those in the richest quintile received about £5,900 more than those in the poorest quintile. By 2010, pupils in the richest and poorest socio-economic quintiles each received about £73,000 in total spending.
  • Reforms since 2010 will have increased total funding in favour of pupils from poorer backgrounds. The pupil premium was introduced from 2011 onwards. Reforms to post-16 funding have tended to favour colleges, which poorer pupils are more likely to attend, rather than school sixth forms. Socio-economic gaps in higher education participation have fallen slightly over time, though these remain substantial.

In less than a decade over the 2000s, education spending shifted from being skewed towards richer pupils to being skewed towards poorer pupils instead.

This is a remarkable shift in the shape of public spending, with an increasing amount of redistribution taking place through public service spending.

In more recent years, these changes will have been partly counterbalanced by reductions in welfare spending and children’s services.

Nevertheless, the empirical evidence suggests that focusing more education spending on poorer pupils should lead to substantial improvements in their life chances.

Luke Sibieta, co-author of the report and Research Fellow at IFS

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page