Britain trails Poland, Baltic states, and parts of former Yugoslavia on education spending

The UK is trailing behind a number of central and eastern European countries on its levels of education spending, according to the latest official EU-wide figures on the subject.

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Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Slovenia all spend a higher proportion of their GDP on education than Britain, the Eurostat figures released on Monday show.

The stats follow a row at the general election about the Conservatives’ planned cuts to schools, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies said would see funding fall by 3 per cent by 2021 under plans laid out in the Tory manifesto.

The latest EU-wide figures, which relate to 2015, show Britain spends 5.1 per cent of its GDP on education, while Estonia spends 6.1 per cent, Latvia 6.0 per cent, and Slovenia 5.6 per cent. The EU average is around 4.9 per cent.

In March the cross-party Public Accounts Committee warned that the biggest school funding shortages in England since the ‘90s were threatening to damage schools standards.

A report by the committee said that there was a “collective delusion” in Government that spending cuts in the education system could be achieved by making efficiency savings.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) head teachers’ union warned at the time that the Department for Education “does not seem to understand the pressures that schools are already under”.

Across Europe the highest levels of education spending in terms of GDP are are Denmark (7.0 per cent), Sweden (6.5 per cent), and Belgium (6.4 per cent).

By far the lowest spending was in Romania, which spent just 3.1 per cent of its GDP on education.

The Treasury has failed to earmark more cash for education or schools since the election, but Education Secretary Justine Greening in July announced that she was raiding the free schools budget to bolster the core schools budget by £1.3 billion.

Ms Greening said in July that schools funding “is at a record high because of the choices we have made to protect and increase school funding even as we faced difficult decisions elsewhere to restore our country’s finances”.

The Independent