|GCSE results compared to Average spend per pupil|
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As the above chart shows, outside the clump in the centre, there appears to be very little correlation between increased spending and better GCSE results. The county which achieved the highest average GCSE results (Vale of Glamorgan) actually spent the least (£5,001 per pupil), whereas one of the highest spending counties (Blaenau Gwent) achieved some of the poorest general results. Clearly there is a great deal of difference between the general prosperity of those two particular counties, which led me to plot the results versus the average percentage uptake of free school meals in each county:
|GCSE results compared to uptake of Free School Dinners|
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This chart shows a very clear negative correlation between the 2010 GCSE results and the uptake of Free School Meals. As Free School Meals are offered to children from low income families, it is therefore no surprise that these GCSE results also correlate to the total out of work claimant rate in each county too:
|GCSE results compared to total out-of-work benefit claimants|
(Click to enlarge)
Of course it has long been accepted that academic performance is a function of relative prosperity therefore these results are not surprising, but it is informative to test the actual Welsh GCSE results in this way. If you are so inclined you can see how the Welsh GCSE results correlate to several other factors here.
So what does this mean?
- A lack of correlation between spend and academic performance seems to suggest that as long as education spending is above a certain threshold, additional spending will not necessarily yield better results.
- The clear negative correlation between prosperity and results indicates that unless something is done to break this link, it could lead to a downward spiral of ever poorer educational attainment linked to ever decreasing prosperity levels (education levels being one of the major functions of economic performance).
So what can be done? As I suggested in my previous post, clearly radical changes are needed to our education system in Wales if we are to break the link between prosperity and school performance. As not all children are academically minded, my personal preference would be to stream pupils earlier into either academic or vocational schools as per the German model. It is pointless to enforce an academic one-size-fits-all approach when clearly not all children have an equal aptitude for academic subjects — in fact this turns the more vocationally-minded children off school altogether, meaning they can't wait to leave school at 16 rather than move on to doing vocational courses.
Education is of critical importance to Wales if we want to turn around our economic prospects. Will this new Assembly show any boldness in its policy making? I for one will not be holding my breath.