Education spending is the second-largest element of public service spending in the UK, representing about £99 billion in 2020–21 in today’s prices or about 4.5% of national income.
To make efficient and equitable policy choices, it is crucial to have a clear and consistent picture of spending per pupil by phase of education, how it is distributed and how this has changed over time. This provides policymakers and the public with a sense of current resource priorities and future challenges. These issues are also a vital component of the education policy debate, particularly given empirical evidence emphasising the differential effectiveness of resources at different stages of the life course.
Unfortunately, official statistics do not provide a clear and consistent picture of per-pupil spending across stages of education over time. Figures for the early years are complicated by the vast range of different schemes available. The changes to school governance, such as the rapid shift to Academy status, make it hard to ascertain the level of spending on schools. Funding levels for sixth forms and colleges are rarely presented alongside the actual number of students attending them in a given year. Higher education spending is incredibly complex and technical due to the huge changes to higher education funding over time and most of the spending being covered by expected graduate repayments later in life.
In four annual reports on education spending funded by the Nuffield Foundation, we have sought to cast light on this subject by illustrating how spending per pupil across different stages of education has changed over time, what factors have driven these changes and the challenges facing policymakers and providers in the future.
This website represents a continuation of this project and has again been kindly funded by the Nuffield Foundation. It provides the latest figures on spending per pupil across different stages of education and describes the key trends over time. It includes our latest analysis of challenges and policy proposals across different stages of education. It also details the methodology and data underpinning our figures. These figures will then be updated in response to key data or policy announcements. Our annual reports will focus on overall comparisons across different stages of education. We will also be finding new ways to illustrate the spending challenges and policy choices across different stages of education, such as our new online student loan calculator.