Zombie statistics, like the living dead in horror movies, just won’t die no matter how much you shoot them down. And the false statistic for literacy, or rather “functional illiteracy”, keeps on rising.
Deborah Orr, writing in the Guardian
, used the fact that the summer rioters didn’t touch a book shop as ammunition to support her assertion, first made in 2006, that if 47% of pupils passed five GCSEs A*-C then it showed that 53% of pupils were “functionally illiterate”.
Ms Orr’s 53% is more than two-and-a-half times the incorrect figure of 20% which was rebuffed on this site
last month. But just to make it absolutely clear to those who bandy around ever-larger numbers about illiterate school leavers, here is a short summary:
1 A person who is functionally illiterate is one who hasn’t reached the Level One threshold, defined by the Public Accounts Committee
as “the best approximation we have to what counts as functional competence for everyday living…”
2 The threshold for Level One is not GCSE C. GCSE grade C is the threshold for Level Two.
3 The threshold for Level One
is GCSE grade G. Only those unable to gain a GCSE grade G, therefore, can be classed as functionally illiterate.
4 In 2011, 98.7% of the 649,553 candidates for GCSE
English gained A*-G. Only the ungraded 1.3% could be regarded as functionally illiterate.
1.3% does not equal 53%.
I have tried my best to drive a stake through the heart of the zombie statistic about functional illiteracy and school leavers, but I think even Professor Van Helsing would fail to nail this one.