Stories + Views
DfE confirms: the schools Gove said he visited don’t exist
“I’ve visited schools where more—many more—children than the national average are registered as having special educational needs. But where every child manages to perform well above the national average in numeracy and literacy.”
Michael Gove, Conservative Home, 7 September 2013
That statement puzzled me. When I checked the school performance tables I could only find two schools, one in 2011 and one in 2012, where 100% of pupils achieved above the national average in Key Stage 2 Sats. Neither of these had more than the national average registered as having special educational needs (SEN). I wrote about it here.
However, I needed to make sure. I hadn’t been able to check the 2010 results easily. Perhaps I’d missed some. So I asked the Department for Education (DfE).
Today I received the delayed findings. The DfE said:
“There were no schools in these years which fit into the category you have described.”
So, Education Secretary, Michael Gove, champion of evidence-based policies, has never visited any school with an above-average proportion of SEN pupils and where every pupil performs “well above the national average in numeracy and literacy” – not in 2010, 2011 or 2012.
Yet he says he has. He said so on Conservative Home.
But no such schools exist.
Michael Gove made the same claim in his Policy Exchange speech when he named two schools he’d visited:
“In schools like Woodpecker Hall Primary in Edmonton or Durand Academy in Lambeth far more children than the national average are registered as having special educational needs. But every child – regardless of the challenges they face – achieves far above the national average in numeracy and literacy.”
This statement was incorrect as discussed here. However, the speech seems to have been changed. The statement now says:
“In schools like Cuckoo Hall Primary or Durand Academy far more children than the national average are registered as having special educational needs. But the vast majority of children – regardless of the challenges they face – achieved at or above the expected level in numeracy and literacy.”
It appears, then, that history has been rewritten. It’s a good thing Warwick Mansell quoted it in the Guardian or we’d have no proof.
We really do seem to be in the world of George Orwell. Winston Smith is alive and working at the DfE (aka the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue).
UPDATE 25 October 2013
The headline has been changed. It originally read “Gove has visited schools that don’t exist.”
The DfE admitted the Policy Exchange speech had been “updated”. Under Page History it said:
“Corrected reference to Woodpecker/Cuckoo Hall Academies and Durand Academy for accuracy.13 September 2013 17:51″
Thanks to Miles for pointing this out.
However, the amendment raises the question about how a speech can be “updated”. Surely a written record of a speech is just that – a written record. It’s recognised that a speech may vary between draft and delivery, but is it acceptable to change a published record after delivery? We don’t expect records of speeches in, say, Hansard, to be changed at a later date because they contained inaccurate data which has proved embarrassing for the speaker.
UPDATE 28 October 2013. For more information about Gove’s misinformation see:
1 Second half of this thread.
2 Myths promoted by the DfE here.
3 The now notorious dodgy surveys used by Gove.
4 Concerns about how the DfE “misunderstands” and “misuses” evidence.
5 How DfE ignores evidence from one of its favourite groups, the Sutton Trust/EEF.