Full Fact checks DfE claims after UKSA censure and Hinds's defence
Hinds's defence (or is it defiance?) is ill-founded
The education secretary Damian Hinds defended the ‘broad thrust’ of data claims made by the Department of Education after its severe reprimand by the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), Full Fact reports.
Full Fact followed this by its own analysis of DfE claims.
Much of this will be familiar to readers of this site but it’s worth recapping.
- The Government claims funding for schools will be at a record high by 2020. But this doesn’t factor in inflation. Neither does it cite spending per pupil. FACT: education spending in England fell from 2009/10 to 2017/18 and will stay constant to 2019/20.
- FACT: The claim that UK is third-highest spender on education globally is meaningless because it doesn’t reflect public spending in England.
- The Government cites IFS figures showing real terms per pupil funding in 2020 will be 50% higher than in 2000. FACT: while the statistic is correct it doesn’t reflect the record of governments from 2010 . Most of the real terms increase occurred before 2010.
Damian Hinds’s defence of the DfE’s data use is ill-founded. And the PM’s repetition of them in the Commons after the UKSA condemnation is reprehensible.
Dodgy data use undermines trust in politicians
Full Fact is correct in saying that government spin on statistics is misleading. This in turn undermines trust in politicians and encourages cynicism about politicians’ announcements.
Media has role to play in debunking misleading claims but its track record on DfE data is poor
The media has a serious role to play in debunking politicians' claims. But far too often, most of the media has churned government press releases and announcements without checking. Would Michael Gove have got away with saying the UK had plummeted down league tables in the decade up to 2010 if journalists had bothered to check? If they had done so, then they would have discovered the OECD, which produces data based on the three-yearly global PISA tests of 15-year-olds, had warned that data from 2000 for the UK should not be used for comparison with 2009 results because the UK data was flawed. But Gove ignored this, the press picked up his damning critique and ran with it.
Gove based his entire reform programme on the plummeting down league tables myth. How different might English education look today if Gove had been blasted for his misleading us of OECD data in 2010?
ESSENTIAL READING: The first annual report from the IFS on education spending in England published in September is here. It's short and to-the-point. Main findings:
- Spending on 3-4-year-olds since early 1990s UP from practically nil to £3b. But funding for Sure Start centres introduced during this period has been slashed by two-thirds since 2009/10
- Total school spending per pupil has fallen by 8% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18
- Per student funding for those aged 16–18 has seen the biggest squeeze of all stages of education in recent years