LETTER: Education spending is up

YOUR Inside Story of 12 March claimed that: "Official figures show education spending is up but they mask the alarming reality."

The "alarming reality" turned out to be the Government's critics' recalculation of inflation-weighted spending on education according to a Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) formula which Cipfa itself no longer uses. Cipfa's own handbook states: "The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) deflator (which the Government uses) is the better indicator of the cost to the economy as a whole and the public purse of changes in education expenditure."

This rather vital fact completely undermines your whole hypothesis. You claim that we did not dispute the figures. In fact, we dispute almost every claim in the article:

1 Capital spending, in real terms, rose by 1 per cent between 1980-81 and 1992-93, or by 14 per cent per pupil.

2 Books and equipment spending is at an all-time high and this country is among the world leaders in the use of new technology in the curriculum.

3 The average pay of a school teacher, according to the Employment Department's New Earnings Survey, rose by some 59 per cent since this government took office in 1979. Even the National Union of Teachers acknowledges that teachers' pay has quadrupled in cash terms since 1979 during a period when the Retail Price Index has trebled.

Finally, my estimable colleague, Eric Forth, Minister of State, was amused to read that he "has now moved on". Reports of his demise are wildly exaggerated.

Robin Squire

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

Department for Education