How much more misleading data will Gove and the DfE publish?

Janet Downs's picture
Time and again the Local Schools Network has exposed misrepresentation by Secretary of State, Michael Gove, and the Department for Education. Here are ten examples:

1 Academies perform better than other schools – not true.

2 Converter academies drive up standards – evidence doesn’t exist.

3 Maths standards have fallen over 30 years – Gove misled Commons.

4 Standard of food in academies is better than in other schools – not substantiated.

5 Channel 4 Factcheck said academies raise standards – not true.

6 Gove’s soundbites to Tory conference – not backed by evidence.

7 US charter schools are a success – based on flawed research.

8 Claims of free school advocates – not to be trusted.

9 Hong Kong supports knowledge curriculum – not true.

10 Singapore still uses ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels – TRUE, but no other high-performing nation has externally set exams like these at 16 and 18 that’s why Mr Gove only mentions Singapore. Even Hong Kong replaced ‘O’ and ‘A’ level type exams with a single examination in 2012 (see “What are the examination systems in other countries” in FAQs above).

Mr Gove still repeats the 2000 PISA figures for the UK which the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found are faulty. Undeterred by official warnings from the organisation that originally published the figures that they should only be used with caution, Mr Gove continues to show contempt to the OECD by ignoring its advice that the 2000 scores should not be used for comparison. But Mr Gove quoted the 2000 and 2009 figures in the Commons on 21 June 2012, two-and-a-half years after the OECD said they shouldn’t be used to demonstrate trends:

“The sad truth is that, if we look at the objective measure of how we have done over the past 15 years, we find that on international league tables our schools fell in reading from 523 to 494 points, in maths from 529 to 492 and in science from 528 to 514.”

But in his eagerness to repeat the incorrect figures he demonstrates his own mathematical ineptitude. A competent 7 year-old could tell him that 2009 – 2000 does not equal 15.

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Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 30/06/2012 - 16:28

Elizabeth Truss, (MP South West Norfolk, Conservative), House of Commons, 21 June 2012 “Sweden has a single exam board and has had no grade inflation for the past 20 years.”

But Ms Truss missed the other qualities of the Swedish exam system which comprises teacher assessment, coursework and projects as well as nationally approved exams for core subjects (Swedish, Swedish as a second language, English, Maths) at the end of compulsory schooling (age 16) and upper secondary. This matches what many other high-performing countries are doing – multiple assessment not just relying on exams.

What a pity the Commons is being misled into thinking that the only quality of the Swedish exam system is its single exam board.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 30/06/2012 - 20:37

I'm sure the insight she has contributed to this debate will have the level of research and life experience associated with it that all her other comment have.

Has she given up on deregulating childcare after her panning on 'Total Politics' and that debate in general and come back to enlighten us in education again?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 01/07/2012 - 08:20

Rebecca - I confess I'd never heard of Elizabeth Truss. I thought she was something to do with "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" and was using her knowledge of punctuation to inform the education debate until I realised I was confusing her with Lynne.

I have no evidence but do you think that Truss's question to Mr Gove might have been planted? She had just congratulated him (don't you find these kind of comments are sometimes a little obsequious?) and then lobbed him an easy ball.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 01/07/2012 - 21:12

At ACME conference last year I asked Liz Truss MP to reassure the audience of about 150 maths education experts (typically with huge experience of teaching and other element of education - such as lecturing MEd in maths education and so on) that they would be consulted regarding policy in maths education.

Instead of taking that opportunity, Liz, with no credible experience in anything at all except looking and sounding like a politician, made it clear that we were the ones who to blame for all the problems in maths education. Since then she has gone on to take charge. In the past contemplation of technologies in education has been done by committees of people with profound expertise in consultation with all stakeholders. Now all this has been replace with, er, the detail of insight provided in the video this blog links to:

And instead of learning from consultations about the new primary maths curriculum we have one which has been written in direct contradiction to all advice.

That comment probably wasn't planted. She has a long history of parroting things other people in the Gove, Young, Gibb group say without any ability to digest the information and add understanding or insight. It didn't go down very well at a maths consultation I was at one the week that she'd decided to join in with Toby Young's efforts to destroy one of the most credible characters in maths education in England with a similarly unconsidered comment. It's seems she's also decided to parrot Toby's desire to lose friend and alienate people.

Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 01/07/2012 - 21:43

Looks like he is continuing that theme here

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 02/07/2012 - 09:47

Clearly the key argument against splitting qualifications is that unnecessary decisions which determine whether or not a students will attain particular qualifications then have to be made at 14 rather than at 16 and so unnecessary disadvantage is created for some students compared with there being integrated qualifications. Toby Young is either grossly ignorant or is totally devoted to pursuing his own commercial interests when he constructs these trolling articles. They should be treated with the disdain they deserve.

Why on earth is he being invited on to Newsnight? Why is Michael Gove having anything to do with what he says?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 02/07/2012 - 11:23

I wonder if the West London Free School will link to the Spectator article on their website. There are usually links to Young's articles, blogs and so on and the website's doing a splendid job in promoting his book (I wonder if the school charges him for advertising?).

Perhaps the school will approve his sneering remarks about wheelchair ramps (won't they have them in the school's permanent home) and be pleased that their governor's remark about a "functionally illiterate troglodyte with a mental age of six" will discourage parents of low-attaining children from applying for a place at the school. A "classical liberal education" is not for the likes of them (or for children in a wheelchair, apparently, if having wheelchair ramps is a sign of political correctness).

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 01/07/2012 - 10:35

Mr Gove told the Commons on 21 June 2012: “Singapore, we find that 80% of students there take their O-level examinations, some at 15, some at 16 and some at 17.”
Perhaps Mr Gove should have read LSN FAQs about international exam systems before speaking so confidently. Secondary school pupils in Singapore are streamed based on results of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Express pupils take GCE O levels after 5 years, pupils in the Normal (Academic) stream take GCE N(A) exams after 4 years , and pupils in the Normal (Technical) streams take GCE N(T) exams after 4 years. N(A) and N(T) exams are not O levels.

In theory, pupils who do well in N(A) or N(T) exams can study for an extra year and take O levels but it’s unclear how this can work in practice when N(A) and N(T) pupils are offered fewer exam subjects (see FAQs above). A pupil from N(T) who had done well in, say, combined science, would find it difficult to progress to separate science if s/he hadn’t covered the syllabus.

And Mr Gove’s arithmetical skills have let him down again. Pupils in Singapore do not start secondary education until age 12. It is 4 years before the first students take exams. 12 + 4 does not = 15.

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