Exam success boosts the economy by £1.3 Billion?

Simplex and Sapiens are discussing the latest press release from the Department for Education.

Simplex: Have you seen the latest figures for GCSE results under this government? They’re truly amazing!

Sapiens: You mean the proportion of 16 year olds achieving 5 or more A*-C grades including English and Maths?

Sim: Yes, a really gigantic increase over 4 years!

Sap: Up 3.7% from 44.1% to 47.8%? Obviously good news but it’s still less than half the cohort.

Sim: Apparently this represents a truly enormous £1.3 Billion boost to our economy, so really outstanding news I’d say.

Sap: Based on assumed extra lifetime earnings of £60,000 each for 21,600 more young people?

Sim: Yes, a £1.3 Billion long term boost to the economy! Wow! That’s a really big number isn’t it? At this rate we’ll be qualifying ourselves out of the deficit.

Sap: Another way of saying this is an extra £1,224 per year per person, or £23.50 a week…

Sim: Well, if you insist on dividing things up then the numbers will get smaller…

Sap: Can you explain where this extra money is actually coming from?

Sim: Obviously more well-qualified students equals more earnings and hey presto…£1.3Billion!

Sap: But do these extra qualifications actually create new jobs or additional earnings?

Sim: Well…

Sap: Surely, all things being equal, more people with the same qualification level simply increases the competition between them for the same jobs and the better qualified will probably have greater access to the best paid work.

Sim: But all things aren’t equal, employment levels could rise, our economy could grow …

Sap: Indeed – and it could shrink too. None of which is directly caused by qualification levels.

Sim: Still…£1.3Billion eh?

Sap: Last time this was looked at in 2007, the lifetime earnings boost of 5 GCSEs or equivalent was estimated at £148,000 rather than today’s £60,000. And that was without even insisting on English and Maths.

Sim: Yes, but we’ve had a big recession since then.

Sap: You make my point for me.

Sim: You are such a spoilsport. Why can’t we just celebrate the success of our wonderful students?

Sap: I agree, let’s just do that.

Simplex and Sapiens have also discussed vocational education here.

About Eddie Playfair

Principal of Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) East London. Blogging about education, politics and culture in a personal capacity. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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