When will the Government stop playing the “plummeting down league tables” card? Is it time to reprise the PISA Blues?

Janet Downs's picture
‘It may be difficult to treat an apparent decline in secondary school pupils’ performance as “a statistically robust result.”’ That’s what the UK Statistics Authority said in October 2012 when it commented on the Government’s dodgy use of data from international education test results.

But the watchdog’s warnings haven’t stopped members of the Government from trotting out the same mantra about “plummeting down league tables". Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who’s also a historian so should know about the importance of evidence, repeated the discredited data early this year.

And schools minister Lord Nash told the House of Lords (9 July 2013), “…we have slipped so far down the international league tables that we cannot afford to wait.”

Perhaps Lord Nash should heed the old proverb, "Fools rush in..."

Or he could read our faq Is the UK tumbling down the international league tables? This shows the picture is not as dire as the noble Lord would have us believe. For example, the Trends in Maths and Science Survey 2011 still ranks England among the top ten countries for primary maths.

So, perhaps it’s time to reprise the PISA Blues.

In the last ten years, we fell,
In the last ten years, we fell,
Ten years ago we was top,
But now we’ve gone and dropped,
In the last ten years, we fell.

Now, listen, chillun, to my lies,
Truth and good news I will disguise,
I’ll cherry-pick data, use false quotation,
I’m gonna force my views on education.

In the last ten years, we fell

Now, you look close and see my mind,
I’m a man who follows that ol’ Gradgrind,
I’m a man of vision, I’ll set you all free,
But only if your Gov’nors agree with me.

In the last ten years, we fell…



LSN printed a list of questions for Michael Gove earlier this month. One of them asked:

“The UK Statistics Authority has censured the use of international educational test data by the DfE. When will the Department issue a retraction and apologise for misleading Parliament and the public about the standing of the UK in international educational league tables?”

It seems the Government has no intention of apologizing for misrepresenting international test data. Instead, it appears it's going to keep on repeating the same distortion.

The full list of questions is here.

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