Sir: In the furore about funding teachers pay, we should accept Margaret Thatcher's dictum: "We can only have the services we can afford." Surely, this is self-evidently true. The issue is simple - is the education expenditure what we can or should afford?

The answer is also simple. We ought to devote to education what our international competitors afford - i.e. what percentage of their GDP goes to education? The evidence is damning as Britain is now bottom of this international league table for those whom comparable data is available.

For example:

Canada spends 7.2% of its GDP

Denmark, Finland 6.9%

Holland, Norway 6.6.%

Germany, Ireland 6.2%

Belgium 6.1%

Luxembourg 6.0%

France, Sweden, US 5.7%

Austria 5.6%

Switzerland 5.1%

Spain 5.0%

Japan, Portugal 4.9%

United Kingdom 4.7%

(source: US Dept Commerce, 1993, Statistical Abstracts of the USA, 13th edition)

Under Edward Heath, we used to spend 6.2 per cent! Is it surprising that those at the front-line of education are beginning to feel demoralised as class sizes and demands rise, resources decline, despite all the rhetoric of the importance of investing in the future? We must reverse this dangerous trend before it is too late.

Yours sincerely,

Colin Pritchard

Department of Social Work Studies

University of Southampton


15 February