It could have paid for more than 3,300 new teachers, 250,000 laptop computers or replenished understocked school libraries with 10 million new text books.
Instead, £100 million of public money has been wasted on a reward card scheme, intended to encourage teenagers to stay on at school, which has been officially evaluated as a flop.
Ministers decided last week to cut their losses and axe the Connexions Card - but not before it has earned Capita, the private company that runs it, more than £66 million....
"This is yet another example of an untested, ineffective project that has been allowed to run for years despite failing to produce results. Just think of the number of maths teachers or text books that could be bought with this kind of money."
The Connexions Card was launched by the Department for Education and Skills six years ago to give 16- to 19-year-olds an incentive to stay on at school by giving them "loyalty points" that they could exchange for discounts on CDs, clothes and tickets for events.
Early evaluations in 2003 warned of its lack of progress, but ministers continued to back the scheme, even after the final assessment report last year concluded that there was no evidence that it had improved teenagers' motivation or led to more staying on.
Less than four per cent of youngsters had redeemed points with the card. Just 54,788 had used it by the end of 2004 - spectacularly failing to hit the target of 1.7 million.
While the scheme was questioned by critics, Capita was picking up £66.14 million. Under the contract, the company is due to receive a further £41.48 million, but officials refused to say last night how much of this would be paid.
Beverley Hughes, the children's minister, said: "Cardholders will have until the end of August this year to earn points and until the end of February 2007 to redeem them. We will be winding it down because the card has served its purpose."
Official figures released last week show that the proportion of 16- to 18-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training increased from 10 per cent in 2004 to 11 per cent last year - about 220,000 young people.
You can't blame Capita for taking the money - that is what they are in business for! But it is symptomatic that this sort of fiasco is so common with this Government that no one really notices or comments on them now.
So todays Maths question is if it costs £66 milion to reward 54788 pupils with a few DVDs, would the kids have prefered £1204.64 in cash instead each?