When does 100% really equal 36%? When Michael Gove claims it as a fact

Henry Stewart's picture
Do you know the difference between 36% and 100%? If so, congratulate yourself because your numeracy skills are ahead of those of our Secretary of State for Education. Perhaps he needs to return to the classroom and get the benefit of some of the excellent Maths teaching available.

The indefatigable Janet Downs revealed that Michael Gove was talking nonsense when he said "In schools like Woodpecker Hall primary or Durand Academy in Lambeth far more children than the national average are registered as having special educational needs. But every child – regardless of the challenges they face – achieves far above the national average in numeracy and literacy.

As Janet pointed out, "every child ... achieves far above the national average" must mean that every child in the school achieves Level 5. (Level 4 is achieved by around 80% of 11 year olds and thus cannot be "far above the national average".)

When the Guardian today covered this story, a DfE spokesperson explained that Mr Gove did not mean Woodpecker Hall (which Janet pointed out had SEN levels well below the national average) but another North London primary, Cuckoo Hall. At Cuckoo Hall, the spokesperson said, "90% and 94% of their pupils achieved at or above the expected level in numeracy and literacy."

But note the neat slip of the tongue. Gove talked of children achieving "far above the national average", whereas the spokesperson, trying to rescue the situation, talked of pupils "at or above the expected level". Those are not the same thing.

The DfE performance data reveals that the proportion of children at Cuckoo Hall achieving "above the national average", level 5, was 36%. That is a long way from "every child".

Perhaps we should invent a new term, a "Gove fact", for a claimed figure that is nowhere near the real one.


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