… or so says the OECD in their ‘Doing Better for Children‘ report. The UK spends more on its children than most OECD countries, and has strongly embraced the ‘early years’ agenda pushed by economists like Jim Heckman (the idea that you get most ‘bang for your buck’ by spending more money on very young children during their critical early development, and proportionately less as they get older).
Nonetheless, our school results are mediocre and on several social measures we’re among the worst in the OECD:
[T]he proportion of youth not in school, training or in jobs in the UK remains high, at more than one in ten 15 to 19 year-olds. This is the fourth highest rate in the OECD, ahead of Italy, Turkey and Mexico.
Education results are also low relative to spending levels. The UK comes out in the middle of OECD comparisons of how well 15 year olds do at school and in terms of the gaps between well and poorly performing pupils.
Underage drinking and teenage pregnancy rates are high. Drunkenness is the highest in the OECD, with one in three 13 and 15 year olds having been drunk at least twice. The UK also reports the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate after Mexico, Turkey and the United States.
On the plus side, at least we’re not bullies:
In other areas, the UK performs well. Children in the United Kingdom are materially fairly well-off. Average family income is higher and child poverty is lower than OECD averages.
Children in the United Kingdom also enjoy a high quality of school life. The United Kingdom ranks 4th out of 25 countries for children’s school satisfaction. Rates of bullying are also relatively low.
It’s worth noting, of course, that those drunk/pregnant problem teenagers were born before the big push towards high early years spending. So the jury is still out on whether the early years money is being well spent. I’m also not convinced that ‘having been drunk twice’ by the age of 15 (the OECD’s drunkeness measure) is necessarily a mark of anarchy and social decline. But perhaps that’s because I am myself a decadent young(ish) Briton, inured to such things…