Minister thumbs nose at watchdog warning
Gibb ignores statistics authority concern
Ignoring the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has become a habit with the Department for Education (DfE), particularly ministers.
Schools minister Nick Gibb has again thumbed his nose at UKSA by failing to heed the watchdog’s concerns expressed in January about the way the DfE presented results of the five-yearly international reading test for 10-year-olds (PIRLS).
When the 2016 PIRLS results were announced in December 2017, a DfE press release claimed post-2010 policies had been responsible for a ‘dramatic improvement’ in PIRLS ranking between 2006 and 2016. Gibb, in euphoric mood, penned a Telegraph article saying the PIRLS results gave official sanction to the ‘UK’s phonics revolution’.
But these ministerial assertions omitted the 2011 results. And it was in 2011 the real dramatic improvement had occurred.
After I complained to UKSA, the watchdog said that ‘a more complete picture…would have been provided if England’s 2011 PIRLS figures had also been included in the release’.
Gibb again omits 2011 PIRLS results to claim responsibility for England’s 2016 success
Nick Gibb has taken no notice of UKSA’s view. In a press release dated yesterday he again cited the rise in England’s PIRLS performance from 2006 without mentioning the 2011 results. And he wrote another Telegraph article which said:
‘In an international survey of the reading abilities of nine-year-olds, England leapfrogged up the rankings last year after decades of falling standards, going from 19th out of 50 countries to eighth. A key reason is phonics. ‘
But the leapfrogging occurred between 2006 and 2011 when ranking improved from 19th to joint 10th.
Gibb claims phonics not taught before 2010
‘Before 2010, children were taught to read using the “progressive” method. With this approach, children repeat words until they remember them (“Look John look. Look Janet look”) and from this are expected to absorb the full alphabetic code,’ Gibb confidently asserts.
If Gibb is correct, then the frogs which leapt up the PIRLS ranking between 2006 and 2011 had been taught reading with a method Gibb despises.
He isn’t right, of course, phonics was already embedded in England’s schools before 2010 and used with a combination of pedagogy, language and literature.