Was Prince William's Wedding Bad for British Schools?

It's inevitable: every time a major cultural event with lavish costs occurs, people begin to wonder where that money might have been better spent, and the U.K.'s recent royal wedding is certainly no exception. What could that money have done to help British schools? Or did the wedding actually help schools anyway?

By Eric Garneau

royal wedding william and kate

What Did the Wedding Really Cost?

According to an April 2011 story from ABC News, the actual cost of Kate Middleton's wedding to Prince William is impossible to estimate; it could lay anywhere in the $16-$64 million range. Further, Wall Street Journal blogger Carl Bialik reported that, because the royal wedding ended up being declared a holiday in Britain, the nation's GDP also took a hit due to decreased industrial productivity. The most reasonable estimates seem to put that secondary cost at somewhere below the staggering sum of one billion dollars.

But perhaps there are some mitigating factors to consider. Chief among them: ABC also reported that the bulk of the royal wedding's cost was spent on security, just as much to protect the throngs of people gathered to watch as to protect the royal family. Their best estimate for that bill comes to about $33 million. Further, when adjusted for inflation, the famous 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana would have racked up a cost of about $110 million today. English royalty seems to have adapted to changing times and tough economic situations.

But Where Could the Money Have Gone?

A lot of the royal wedding's cost, including the massive security bill, was passed off on British taxpayers, who also pay for the country's public education system. Cost-wise, how do the two compare? According to a 2008 article in The Telegraph, it takes about $14,467.50 per year to school a U.K. child. That means that, for the price of the royal wedding, 1,105-4,424 children could have been put through a year of school, a not-insignificant number.

But does the U.K.'s education system need that help? If articles like The Guardian's April 2011 'Schools Struggle with Huge Deficits' are any indication, definitely. According to that piece, eight schools in the country sit on 7-figure deficits, and many others are in the red as well. Since so much of a school's budget is tied up in staffing, letting faculty go is the only recourse left for many institutions. That ends up leaving students with bigger class sizes, fewer curriculum options and an all-around reduced experience.

Maybe the Wedding's Not That Bad

On the other hand, were the proceedings of the royal wedding really so wrong? People get married, after all, and it's seldom cheap. Even though certain aspects of William and Kate's ceremony were opulent (ABC suggests the wedding cake cost $133 per slice), it's hard to fault them for spending so much money on security. In fact, London watchdog group TaxPayers' Alliance told ABC they had no problems with the security bill; they actually felt as though the royal family had responded well to requests asking for economic sensitivity during trying times.

And then we must consider the Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund. The royal couple asked that, in lieu of wedding presents, money be donated to charities of their choice. Numerous organizations are represented on their website, including many with an educational focus, like Beatbullying, IntoUniversity and Ocean Youth Trust. Currently the site awaits an update with the total amount of money collected and its specific distribution, but one can reasonably assume those numbers to be sizeable.

Do charitable donations really make up for systematic issues in U.K. schools? Certainly not. But reports suggest that the royal family did attempt to cut costs when it came to their matrimonial proceedings, and that most of the money spent went to protect British citizens of all types. There doesn't seem to be much cause for outrage here, though we can certainly take to heart that U.K. schools, like their counterparts in the U.S., don't face the best economic outlook, and that's a problem that affects all levels of government and citizenry.

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