A Govoration wouldn’t be a Gove speech without some errors, would it? Here are nine of them plus one truth about a target introduced to show "improvement"

Janet Downs's picture
“Results show that sponsored academies are improving more quickly than other state-funded schools.”

The “improvement rate” of sponsored academies, mainly previously underperforming schools, is calculated from a lower base. When sponsored academies are compared with similar non-academies their performance is no better – it’s slightly worse.

“After just 3 years, the English Baccalaureate measure has helped to increase dramatically the number of students enjoying more rigorous courses.”

Now there’s a surprise. Tell schools they’re going to be judged on the take up of particular exams and, what do you know, schools will do them.

“Take languages. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of pupils at the end of key stage 4 sitting modern foreign language GCSEs dropped by more than 200,000.”

The number of Y11 pupils also dropped during this period: the cohort size hit a peak of 800,000 in 2007 but dropped to 710,000 in 2011. What’s important is the proportion taking MFL GCSEs and Gove is correct, the proportion fell after Labour misguidedly said languages weren’t compulsory in Key Stage 4. But everything isn’t rosy: “Following the introduction of the EBacc as a performance measure, many schools have moved to make languages compulsory …However there is a dearth of provision for less 'academic' pupils and no incentive for schools to provide this.” CfBT

It’s a sign of success “When Channel 4 make documentaries about great comprehensives - academies - in Essex and Yorkshire”

Passmores in Educating Essex was not an academy when the documentary was made. Thornhills became an academy on 1 January 2012 prior to filming.

One cause of success: “First - increased autonomy for schools, heads and teachers most of all, by giving every school in the country the chance to become an academy, with the same freedoms long enjoyed by private schools.”

Non-academies can do most things an academy can do; the extra freedoms associated with academies don’t amount to much (Academies Commission 2013)

Our “Outstanding” Ofsted Chief “…has demanded a move away from faddish attachments to outdated styles of teaching and a new emphasis that any style of teaching is welcome as long as students make progress”

Anyone notice something wrong with this statement? Sir Michael Wilshaw can’t both outlaw “outdated styles of teaching” and allow any style.

“The School Direct programme he has launched enables prospective teachers to start their careers in our best schools and enables our best schools to hand-pick the most exceptional candidates. It’s heavily oversubscribed”

“While demand for teachers is growing, recruitment to initial teacher training (ITT) has fallen. Preliminary data suggests a reduction in the number of new entrants for teacher training this year (2013–14). In particular, although the government allocated 9,580 to the School Direct teacher training route…just 6,370 places were taken up. To allow for growth in School Direct, the government has reduced the number of training places in universities so acceptances for this route are also down compared to previous years, and government targets.” (Universities UK Nov 2013)

“We know England’s private schools are the best independent schools in the world. Why shouldn’t our state schools be the best state schools in the world?”

The OECD agreed that UK independent schools were among the best in the world but it found they were outperformed by UK state schools when socio-economic background was factored in.

“Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney - once condemned as ‘the worst school in Britain’ - now one of the best…”

Mossbourne Community Academy was a brand new school with a new head who hand-picked his staff. The school grew gradually year by year. It was built on the site of a school which had been closed several years before and which had been allowed to decline before it was shut and eventually demolished. The only connection between Mossbourne and the closed school is the site.

“At the heart of the success of the best independent schools - and the best state schools - is freedom for the headteacher.”

The Academies Commission said English state schools already had a great deal of autonomy but found some academy heads in chains complained they had less freedom than when they were community schools.

Today’s Govoration can be downloaded here. For Academies Commission findings see faq above.

CORRECTION 4 February 2014 early

The original thread said "Thornhills became an academy on 1 January 2012 which would have been during filming." Thornhills converted to academy status before filming took place. Thanks to Vic Goddard for pointing out the error.

CORRECTION 4 February 2014 later

Point two is actually not an factual error, as Alex Jones points out. The number of pupils taking EBacc subjects has risen since they became a target. This is unsurprising. The Education Select Committee said when it found little support for EBacc:

"...several submissions had suggested that the retrospective introduction [of EBacc] was a politically rather than educationally driven move, as it would, in the words of the Catholic Education Service, “allow the Government to show significant ‘improvement’ in future years”."

And so the prophecy has come to pass.

I've altered the heading of the thread to make this clear.
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P Goddard's picture
Mon, 03/02/2014 - 18:02

“Results show that sponsored academies are improving more quickly than other state-funded schools.”

I don't suppose Gove would like the fact that Ofsted has just given one Sponsored Academy a grade 4 score - Inadequate in all categories. Park Hall Academy, Solihull was supposed to be an improving school and has been sponsored by the "outstanding" Arden Academy for some years.

From the report: "Neither the governing body nor the sponsor trust have ensured that the actions of senior leaders have led to improvements in the quality of teaching and achievement."

susan's picture
Mon, 03/02/2014 - 18:21

Do Academies have the freedom to charge large fees as in the private sector (not that it does them much good-private schools are still not as good as a good state school for all the extra funding and small class sizes)?
Do academies have the same freedom to select their students and to get rid of them as do private schools?

Jane Eades's picture
Mon, 03/02/2014 - 22:15

Mossbourne was opened in 2004. Hackney Downs closed in 1995. In the interval the area changed considerably. For example, many teachers I worked with moved to Hackney because housing was cheap. Wilshaw is as guilty of "extending the truth" as Gove by building his reputation on implying that Mossbourne opened with the same intake as Hackney Downs.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 04/02/2014 - 07:37

Thanks, Jane. Unfortunately, the myth of Mossbourne rising from the ashes of Hackney Downs is all-pervasive. The propaganda gives the impression that Michael Wilshaw was parachuted into a dysfunctional school and turned it into a top-performing comprehensive.

But it's not so.

Alex Jones's picture
Tue, 04/02/2014 - 09:57

I know that 9 isn't as good a number for these kinds of posts as 10 but your second lie isn't a lie. Just because it was a fairly simple way to change the kinds of courses students were pushed towards doesn't make the claim a lie.
Please don't degenerate these posts into propaganda. One of the most effective criticisms of Gove's policies is that they are built on the dishonest use of evidence. The arguments here need to be better than that.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 04/02/2014 - 10:07

Point taken - I'll adjust the thread accordingly.

That still leaves nine factual errors.

Alex Jones's picture
Tue, 04/02/2014 - 11:30

That's a very swift and non-defensive response. I'm impressed. If only the SoS was as quick to admit weaknesses in his arguments.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 04/02/2014 - 12:48

Thanks. It made me think again about what I'd written. And I've also realised Point 6 isn't actually a fib but a failure of Govean logic.

It's inevitable I'll make errors - but I feel it's essential to correct them swiftly, with the minimum of fuss and with an apology.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Tue, 04/02/2014 - 18:19

I don't know how many times it is necessary to repeat that Mossbourne Academy has a CATs driven banded admissions policy that guarantees it an intake that matches the national cognitive ability profile with a mean cognitive ability of 100. The mean cognitive ability of all Hackney pupils that take the CATs is 97. This is the 42nd percentile compared with Mossbourne's 50th percentile. This is a significant difference. We don't know the mean CATs score at Hackney Downs school but I do know the general pattern for unbanded schools serving areas of high social deprivation. In Barrow-in-Furness it was 85. This is the 16the percentile. Even if Hackney Downs was at 90 this would still only be the 25th percentile. This would make for a massive difference in exam results even if all other things were equal, which they very much were not.

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